From ice and hypothermia to indoor allergies and seasonal depression, be aware of these issues associated with the cold-weather months.

By Rebecca Norris
November 02, 2020
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Aging is a blessing, but at times, it can feel as if it comes with more downsides than benefits. This often rings especially true come winter, which brings all kinds of hazards with its icy conditions and shorter days. Ultimately, the colder months are tough, whatever phase of life you're in. To help you tackle the common winter hazards your body becomes more susceptible to over time—from weaker bones (which break more easily should you slip on black ice) and hypothermia to seasonal depression and the flu—we spoke with several doctors for their advice. Take it to heart as the temperatures begin to dip.

Credit: Getty / vgajic

Ice and Broken Bones

For a myriad of reasons, slipping becomes more dangerous as you age. The most alarming, however, is that bones lose strength and density over time—and a small spill could mean a considerable injury. To avoid a painful fall, start by stocking your closet with boots with traction—we like Merrell's Tremblant Mid Polar Waterproof Snow Boots ($104.95, amazon.com). In addition to physically outfitting your feet to help you navigate slippery terrain, naturopathic doctor and chiropractor Dr. Gabrielle Francis recommends sitting by a window with direct sunlight for 20 to 30 minutes a day to increase your body's vitamin D production; supplements are also an option, as is drinking nettle tea every day. "Nettles add silica to the bones, which gives bones flexibility and prevents fracture from brittleness," Dr. Francis explains.

Hypothermia

According to board-certified family medicine physician Dr. Jennifer Caudle, we're more prone to hypothermia as we age—we actually lose body heat faster. "Also, it may become harder for older adults to tell that they are getting too cold due to age-related changes in the body, medications, chronic medical conditions, and other reasons," she adds. One way to prevent hypothermia is to eat foods that build strong, healthy blood. Dr. Francis recommends organic red meat, molasses, red beans, black beans, lentils, and green foods. Additionally, she says to eat herbs that increase blood circulation, like ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, cayenne, and turmeric.

Cold and Flu Season

The common cold and flu hit harder when you reach a certain age bracket—and the same goes for COVID-19. The best way to mitigate your risk? Practice social distancing, mask wearing, and good hygiene—and stock up on immune-boosting foods, while you're at it. Dr. Francis recommends eating red, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables for their vitamin A, yellow, orange, and green ones for vitamin C, regular yogurt for probiotics, and goat and sheep yogurt to build antibodies. If changing your diet feels like a stretch, Dr. Francis says to consider using supplements to get these key nutrients into your body. "Take 1,000 milligrams per day of vitamin C, 1,000 milligrams per day of B12, 25,000 IU per day of vitamin A, 5,000 IU per day of vitamin D, 50 milligrams per day of zinc, and a probiotic," she suggests, noting to take anti-viral protective herbs like elderberry, echinacea, and goldenseal, as well. As with any medication, consult your doctor before introducing supplements into your regimen.

Indoor Allergies

Being mindful about what's happening outdoors come winter is key to protecting yourself, but it's also important to consider how all the time you spend indoors can play a role, too. "People tend to stay home more especially in the winter—and indoor allergies can make that difficult. If untreated, it can be problematic," says Dr. Caudle. "If you suffer from indoor allergies, it is important to get a proper diagnosis and treatment from your doctor. For some, taking an antihistamine such as Xyzal ($21.80, amazon.com) at night helps alleviate allergy symptoms."

Seasonal Depression

Another thing to keep in mind? Along with spending more time indoors and enduring colder, drearier weather patterns and shorter days comes the potential of developing seasonal depression, which can become more intense as you age (especially during this time of unprecedented isolation). A few of Dr. Francis' favorite ways to prevent or fight seasonal depression include scheduling daily chats with friends and family, getting at least 20 to 30 minutes of direct sunlight each day to increase the release of melatonin and serotonin, and exercise in spurts of about a half hour.

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