5 warning signs of conditions to spot in older relatives – from heart attacks to pneumonia


Research from Age UK has shown that over the last 10 years a quarter of a million older adults have died as a result of the cold. And this year severe cold weather continues to be a threat to the most vulnerable in the UK. Therefore, spotting any early signs of health problems in your elderly relatives is vital this Christmas.

Using digital records from last December on more than 29,000 older adults, medical professional Johanna Barlow from Birdie Care, compiled a list of the five most common symptoms they experienced.


Dizziness is one of the easiest things to dismiss – you probably just think someone got up too quickly or needs to eat – but it can actually be a sign of something much more serious.

Johanna said: “In fact, over a third of the older adults who suffered a heart attack communicated feeling dizzy.

“On the other hand, left arm pain, the symptom that is most associated with heart attacks, was brought up by only 11 percent of the adults who suffered one last December.

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“In a nutshell, experiencing dizziness is not usually too serious. But it can be a sign of something underlying.

“Especially – but not exclusively – if associated with other symptoms like tinnitus (ringing in your ears), numbness, tingling, weakness, loss of consciousness or headaches.”

Dry skin

The combination of cold-like symptoms, accompanied by dehydrated skin and disorientation, was present in 94 percent of older adults who experienced hypothermia.

“Despite being commonly seen as just a reaction to seasonal change, dry skin can actually be a sign of hypothermia, or even the cause of an underlying skin condition such as eczema. It can be more worrying if associated with – and not exhaustive to – cracks in the skin, redness and unwellness.” added Johanna


Colds and fatigue

If you notice that a relative is fighting a cough and always looks tired, you might need to intervene.

Of the older adults who caught the flu, 18 percent had a cough, and almost 90 percent mentioned tiredness.

Johanna warned: “Flu in older adults can be dangerous, as seniors are more likely to suffer complications such as pneumonia as a result.

“Other more rare complications with an increased risk are heart attacks and strokes, which is why adults over 65 are offered flu vaccinations.”

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Cough that won’t go away

Predictably, a cough is the number one symptom of bronchitis.

Out of 3,090 older adults who experienced bronchitis last December, there were 9,452 cough observations.

Johanna said: “Simply put, a chronic cough can be a sign of something underlying. If a cough lasts for more than three weeks it’s generally deemed persistent and may need your attention.”

Lack of appetite

When it comes to food, a lack of appetite can be a reason to worry.

The data showed that, for every person who was diagnosed with pneumonia, a lack of appetite observation was reported more than once.

This was by far the most common symptom care professionals at Birdie observed in older adults, only followed by mucus and a fever.

“However, it’s worth noting that a smaller appetite is common amongst adults as they age,” Johanna said. “A lack of appetite manifests as not feeling hungry and so calorie intake declining.

“This symptom can also be associated with depression, acid reflux, cancer and a number of other conditions.”



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