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Elderly respond differently to the cold, more precautions need taken

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - The last time we experienced temperatures this cold was back in 1994.  Some people battling the bitter cold weren't even around then.  For others who were around then, may remember being able to handle the elements a little easier 20 years ago.

"Aging is a slow process and over 20 years they may have acquired several more disease and more medicines that have impaired them even more and your mind is different. You feel like you are middle aged, but your body is telling you different," said Dr. Charles Wilkins with the St. Elizabeth Family Health Center.

Dr. Wilkins says elderly people respond differently to the cold than say someone in their 30s or 40s.  Their bodies have to work harder to stay warm. Since they shiver less often, their body temperatures can plummet very quickly.

"The heart has to beat faster.  The skin has to constrict, as far as the capillaries, and there is really the mechanism is difficult for older people because of changes they may have with aging as well as maybe heart disease.  In addition, if they have more than a few diseases they are on multiple medicines and this alters your response to the cold," said Dr. Wilkins.

That's why Dr. Wilkins say it is so important to stay indoors when the temperatures drop this low.  If you have to travel out, layer up and warm your car before you get in it.  Also, keep you house warm.

"This is no time to economize with the heat bill.  It is time to put the thermostat up above 70," said Dr. Wilkins.

Because there are so many elderly people living in our community, Dr. Wilkins recommends checking up on them.  Often times they don't want to seek out help.  So, he says it is important to drop by every once in a while.

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