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Seniors: stay safe and warm!

Whether you love it or hate it, months of cold weather are a fact of life for residents of the North Country. Cold weather can be more than just a nuisance to older folks. In fact, it can be downright dangerous because it can lead to a condition called "hypothermia".

Hypothermia occurs when your core body temperature falls too low. You do not have to be stranded for hours in a blizzard for hypothermia to occur. It is possible for your core body temperature to drop if you are only outside a short time or even sitting in your favorite chair in a chilly house.

To keep your body insulated when outdoors, wear a hat and gloves and dress in layers. Come inside frequently to get warmed up. Indoors, be especially careful if you have turned your thermostat down because of worries about high heating costs. Dress in layers and wear socks. Consider using a lap robe when sitting for long periods of time, and be sure to have plenty of blankets on your bed at night.

Make sure your home is well insulated and your furnace is working efficiently. Even curtains and draperies can be a good source of energy conservation. Open them during the day when the sun is shining and sit in the rooms that are warmed by the sun, and then close the curtains at night so they can act as an insulator around the window.

Among the less obvious risk factors for hypothermia are health issues and medication. Many illnesses and conditions can interfere with your body's ability to regulate heat. Some prescription and over-the-counter medications can make you more vulnerable to hypothermia. Talk with your doctor to find out if you have a condition that would make you extra sensitive to hypothermia and how you should compensate for it.

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