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Health Capsules
January 2007
Cold Weather Tips for Older Adults


Older adults can lose body heat faster than when they were young.  A big chill can turn into a dangerous problem before an older person even knows what’s happening.  Doctors call this serious problem hypothermia, and it can happen indoors or out.  A new, easy-to-read booklet from NIH’s National Institute on Aging called Stay Safe in Cold Weather! offers tips on avoiding this dangerous condition.

Hypothermia strikes when a person’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees.  Low body temperature can lead to a heart attack, kidney problems, liver damage and sometimes death.  Several hundred people in the U.S., half of them age 65 or older, die from hypothermia each year.

The new 12-page booklet describes hypothermia and discusses how to prevent it both in the home and outdoors, the health problems that can increase an older person’s risk of hypothermia and warning signs to look out for.

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Warning Signs of Hypothermia

Call 911 right away if you think someone has warning signs of hypothermia.  Early signs:

  • Cold feet and hands
  • Puffy or swollen face
  • Pale skin
  • Shivering (though people with hypothermia don’t always shiver)
  • Slower speech or slurring words
  • Acting sleepy
  • Being angry or confused

Later signs of hypothermia:

  • Moving slowly, trouble walking or being clumsy
  • Stiff and jerky arm or leg movements
  • Slow heartbeat that is not regular
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Blacking out or losing consciousness

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  Circumcision Reduces Risk of HIV

Medically performed circumcision significantly reduces a man’s risk of acquiring HIV—the virus that causes AIDS—through heterosexual intercourse, according to 2 studies.

Researchers had noticed that, in certain African and Asian countries, HIV tends to be less prevalent in areas where male circumcision is common.  Two international groups of researchers funded by NIH conducted trials—one in Kenya and the other in Uganda—to investigate the link.  They randomly assigned HIV-negative heterosexual men to either have a circumcision performed by medical professionals in a clinic or to wait 2 years before circumcision.  All the participants were also counseled in HIV prevention.

Both trials reached their enrollment targets by September 2005.  They were originally designed to continue until mid-2007.  However, a review board assessing interim data found medically performed circumcision to be safe and effective in reducing HIV acquisition in both studies.  The study in Kenya, of 2,784 men, showed a 53% reduction of HIV acquisition in circumcised men, while the one in Uganda, of 4,996 men, showed that HIV acquisition was reduced by 48% in circumcised men.

In light of these results, the board recommended that the 2 studies be halted early.  All men in the comparison groups will now be offered circumcision.

These studies found that an uncircumcised man is more likely than one who is circumcised to become infected with HIV.  Still, it’s important to realize that adult male circumcision is not a replacement for proven prevention strategies such as limiting the number of sexual partners and using condoms during intercourse.

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Sleep Well. Do Well. Star Sleeper

Inadequate sleep makes it hard for children to focus and perform well in school. They can become irritable and appear overactive. This campaign, with Garfield as the official spokescat, teaches children-along with their parents, educators and healthcare providers-about the importance of adequate nighttime sleep.
From NIH's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Paws, Inc.

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