When older folks say this, most of us think, “That’s an old wives’ tale.” Well many experts who have studied the weather and how it affects our health are saying, “Not so fast.” What they’re finding is that weather, especially when it’s changing, does have an effect on how we feel and on many of the ailments that are more prevalent in older people.
This article on WebMd identifies a number of ailments that are made worse by changing weather. For those who have heart disease, asthma, arthritis or migraines, studies show that changing weather can wreck havoc on our health.
Both extreme heat and frigid cold weather can adversely affect those who suffer from heart ailments. Dr. Steve Polk, director of The Heart Institute in Towson, Maryland said the number one thing a heart patient should avoid is shoveling snow. The sheer exertion can actually trigger a heart attack. Likewise, extreme heat can cause heat exhaustion or even a heat stroke that puts too much strain on the heart and can be fatal.
Dr. Scott Sheridan, a researcher at Kent State University, says older people are much more vulnerable to extreme heat than younger folks: “Once you get past 65, the thermoregulatory system has a harder time staying balanced,” said Scott.
In 1995, a heat wave prevailed in Chicago, causing 465 heat related deaths and over half of those victims were over the age of 75.
Arthritis and Joint Issues
Dr. Javad Parvizi of the Rotham Institute said changing weather can cause multiple problems for those with arthritis. His research found there’s a strong correlation between joint pain and changing weather. A drop in temperature and a change in humidity seems to be the culprit that worsens the pain in our joints. He prescribes heating pads and extra analgesics for those who are suffering from weather changes.
Migraines and the Climate
Dr. Richard Lipton, director of the Montefiore Headache Clinic, said people with migraines have a harder time in a climate that is constantly changing. Dry, warm climates will help those who suffer from migraines, usually decreasing the number of headaches they get by a significant amount. Knowing not everyone can move to a warm, dry climate, Lipton has his patients keep a diary of their headaches and the weather so they can prepare for the changes in weather that may trigger a bad migraine.
I’m Sneezing and Stuffed Up — It must be allergies!
Again, not so fast! It may not be mold and pollen that’s stuffing up your nose, Dr. Jonathan Bernstein of the University of Cinncinati says it might just be a change in the weather. Cold temperatures and high humidity can cause allergy-like symptoms. Before reaching for the antihistamine, he suggests doing a nasal irrigation and using a decongestant. Antihistamines will not work on symptoms caused by a change in the weather.
Cold Weather and Thunderstorms — Bad for Asthma sufferers!
David Hagaman, MD, medical director at the Vanderbilt Asthma Sinus and Allergy Program, said cold weather and vigorous exercise can increase your risk for an asthma attack. These two can cause your airways to become inflamed which can flare up your asthma.
For asthma patients that end up worse when the pollen count is up, a thunderstorm can really stir things up and also cause an asthma attack. A thunderstorm causes the winds to pick up speed and also pick up any pollen in the air. The study on this phenomenon was published in the journal Allergy and states thunderstorms are responsible for sending many asthma sufferers to the hospital with asthma attacks.
Those Old Wives Must Have Known a Thing or Two
This is just one more example of how we should listen to our elders. I know firsthand when the weather’s about to change! My own knees and ankles let me know right away.
What old family sayings and folklore have you proved right or wrong? We’d love to hear your take on it!