- How a cold snap can be a public health crisis
- How to stay warm without cranking up the thermostat
- The financial risks of chronic health problems
Crikey it’s been cold.
We spent all autumn trying to avoid putting the heating on.
And it was easy…
Because September, October and November were extremely warm. The highest daily temperatures were 2.5C above the average between 1990 and 2020.
So this sudden flip into equally extreme cold has come as quite a shock.
It certainly did for us – now our heating is on FULL POWER.
With the energy prices right now, it feels like I’m shovelling ten pound notes into a furnace to keep warm.
I’m writing this email to you now with fingerless gloves on. To be honest, I look like a heavier version of Steptoe!
(Crazy fact but Wilfrid Brambell was only 49 when he began playing that character, which is MUCH younger than me.)
Anyway, I’m chilly but lucky.
Lara and I have a combined income that can cover our heating bills and grocery shopping, even if we have to tighten our belts.
That’s not the case for many people in the UK who fear that keeping the heating on will be too expensive.
And feeling cold is more than a matter of discomfort.
It’s a serious health issue.
How a cold snap can be a public health crisis
It’s a harsh fact that more people die in the winter every year than in the warmer months.
In the cold, your heart needs to work harder. Your blood pressure rises. Your heart rate rises. And meanwhile there are all kinds of infections and viruses doing the rounds.
Then you’ve got all those treacherously slippery roads and pavements.
Even in a ‘normal’ winter there is a spike in heart attacks, stroke, respiratory problems, flu and broken bones from falls.
For instance, last winter there were 63,000 excess deaths in England and Wales (higher than normal thanks to Covid) but the usual number is between 10,000 and 50,000.
But this sudden onset of severe cold in a time of soaring inflation and energy costs means that some health researchers warn of a “public health and humanitarian crisis”.
The UK’s National Institute of Health and Care Excellence say that elderly people should keep their homes at 18C or more in the daytime.
They also point out that in the coldest 10% of British homes, there will be a 3% rise in death rate every time the outdoor temperature drops by a degree.
Now, I’d love to be able to help my readers improve their finances so that they can keep the heating on when they need it.
But alas it’s not my area of expertise.
However, I have found some tips that might help you stay warmer without cranking up the thermostat.
How to stay warm at home
We all know that having lots of layers of clothing keep you warm when outside.
Well, same goes for indoors.
Adding woollen rugs to wooden floors, keeping throws and blankets on every chair and using plenty of bedspreads is going to help.
You could also add extra layers to curtains to thicken them up a bit, helping keep drafts at bay – if you can afford it, consider buying thick blackout curtains.
One heating expert says that investing in a thermal curtain lining can reduce heat loss by up to 25%.
You should also think about your furniture placement – even if you like the look of your rooms in a design sense, it might be prudent to switch things around on a practical basis during the coldest part of winter.
For instance, move sofas and armchairs away from radiators and position them so that the room is open and quick to heat. Also, keep your furniture away from windows and doors so you don’t feel the draught.
And if you get draughts, use self-adhesive foam or tape on the window frames to seal them more effectively.
You should also keep the curtains open during the day until 3pm so that as much sunlight gets through the windows and warms up the interior for free.
Obviously, the reverse is true when it gets dark. Make sure you keep all the curtains closed at night, even in rooms you don’t use. It will help the house stay warmer.
I’ve also been adding draught excluder cushions to some of my doors this year – you can get them pretty cheaply on Amazon.
The financial risks of chronic health problems
A troubling University of Michigan study came out in September.
It looked at the finances of nearly three million people in the USA who had private health insurance.
Researchers found that those who were suffering from chronic illnesses were in far worse financial health than the average person.
For instance, they were more likely to be in debt, with poor credit scores, late payment penalties and cases of bankruptcy.
These weren’t just rare and extreme chronic conditions either but common ones like high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and liver problems.
The more chronic health conditions a person had, the worse their money situation became.
Those people in the study with seven or more chronic conditions had three to four times the risk of financial upsets, compared with those who had no chronic conditions.
Nora Becker, M.D., Ph.D. who was one of those running the study said: “To see such a strong relationship was very striking.”
And I’m sure that this applies equally in the UK, too.
What’s so sad about this is that those people with chronic health problems will be less likely able to afford soaring energy bills this winter, leaving them even more vulnerable to the health problems associated with cold.
So if you are one of the many people suffering from a chronic condition this winter, please do take extra care of yourself.
As always, I’ll continue to seek out ways to boost your health, reduce your symptoms and keep your immune system as strong as it can be.