Elderly's ability to manage the cold may be due in part to some aging processes of the body

(Bethesda, MD) -- Hypothermia when the body's temperature drops significantly below normal is especially deadly for the elderly. Older people become hypothermic despite the fact that they are more likely to live inside a home than on the street, and nearly half who become hypothermic die.

By contrast, children rarely succumb to the disorder. Younger adults are also less susceptible than the elderly, whose impaired ability to maintain core temperature during cold stress is widely documented. These contrasts have led physiology researchers to investigate whether specific characteristics of the body are responsible for our ability to deflect the cold. In a recently published study researchers have found that certain characteristics, which change with age, affect younger and older persons differently.

The study was conducted by David W. DeGroot and W. Larry Kenney of the Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Physiology and Noll Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA; and George Havenith, Department of Human Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK. Their study, entitled "Responses to Mild Cold Stress Are Predicted by Different Individual Characteristics in Young and Older Subjects," appears in the December edition of the Journal of Applied Physiology (http://jap.physiology.org/).

Summary of the Study

Ten Characteristics and Body Core Temperature

The study examined the relative influence of ten physical characteristics thought potentially to play a role in how the body's core temperature and tissue insulation react to cold. The characteristics they reviewed were age, sex, weight, body surface area, body surface area-to-mass ratio, sum of skin folds (an estimate of body fat), percent body fat, appendicular skeletal muscle mass (ASMM), and two thyroid hormone concentrations, T3 and T4.

Forty-two young (18-30 years; 21 men, 21 women) and 46 older (65-89 years; 24 men, 22

Contact: Donna Krupa
American Physiological Society

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