Learn the signs of low body temperature as winter approaches

A Drop in Core Temperature of the Human Body Can Be Lethal


This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read it here.

Hypothermia means low body temperature. It occurs when we are unable to keep our core body temperature at or above 95 degrees Fahrenheit. If the body remains below 95°F for too long it can kill us. Most of the deaths caused by hypothermia are the result of irregular heartbeats that lead to heart failure.

One reason so many people die of hypothermia in their own homes each year is that it can happen very gradually without their even knowing they were getting too cold. That’s because the brain is the first organ affected as the temperature of the human body drops. In a very short time, we cannot think clearly, become confused and start to feel sleepy. Once that happens, we may not realize we are too cold, so don’t seek help or do anything to keep ourselves warm. Then, we may fall asleep.

Hypothermia Among the Elderly

The elderly are especially at risk since changes in the body can make it harder for them to tell they are getting cold, especially when conditions are not that severe. That is one reason why those being cared for in skilled nursing facilities need to have their body temperature measured regularly to be sure they are not too cold.

Elderly people living on their own may put themselves at risk by setting their thermostat lower to save on the heating bill. Unless someone stops by and tells them how chilly it is in their home, they may not realize it. They may also be unable to put on all the layers of clothing they need to stay warm due to arthritis and other illnesses that make it difficult to move their arms and legs.

Certain illnesses that accompany aging can also make it harder to stay warm, such as hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone), diabetes and circulatory problems. Extra precautions may be needed by people with those conditions to dress appropriately and be prepared for unexpected changes in the weather. Medications used to treat anxiety, depression and nausea can increase the risk of accidental hypothermia along with some over-the-counter cold remedies, so should be checked with the pharmacist.

Signs of Low Body Temperature

Even if someone is shivering it does not mean they are effectively keeping themself warm. Conversely, if someone is not shivering it does not mean they are not cold. According the National Institute on Aging, in either case they could be experiencing hypothermia, so check for the “umbles”:

  • stumbles = poor control over body movements or stiffness in arms and legs
  • mumbles = slowed or slurred speech
  • fumbles = slow reactions
  • grumbles = shallow breathing, confusion

If someone has these symptoms and you suspect they may be suffering from hypothermia, take their temperature. If it is not above 96° F, call for emergency services. While waiting for help to arrive try to keep the person warm by wrapping them in coats, sweaters or dry blankets and towels – whatever is available – including your own body. If they are lying down, just lie against them and gently press your body next to theirs.

Once at the hospital a special thermometer will be used to get an accurate reading of the person’s temperature since most household thermometers cannot read very low temperatures. Treatment with warmed intravenous fluids or more aggressive rewarming with fluids infused directly into the stomach or bladder may be needed.

How are you planning to keep warm this winter?

X-ray of cardiac pacemaker

Benefits of Coenzyme Q10 for Chronic Heart Failure

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.


Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10 or ubiquinone or ubiquinol – whatever you call it – came up in a conversation with my 85 year old father this week. He had been out to dinner with friends and they asked him if he was taking it. He told them he wasn’t. Then they asked him why not since he has chronic heart failure and a history of congestive heart disease, two problems it’s supposed to help.

He promised them he would call me to get the scoop.

Having done so, I did some research and am going to share it with all of you so you don’t have to call and ask me too.

What is Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10?

It’s a vitamin-like substance found in every cell in the body. The reason it is not classified as a vitamin is because our bodies can manufacture it. It is also found in a variety of foods we eat, including fish, meats and whole grains, with smaller amounts in fruits, vegetables and dairy products.

What Does CoQ10 Do?

The energy-producing apparatus inside each cell are called the mitochondria. Think of them like a furnace generating heat for your home. Their job is to convert fat and other substances into a usable form of energy to fuel all of our activities and support the growth and repair of our body parts. Coenzyme Q10 is needed for this conversion process.

It also functions as an antioxidant that protects the body from the damaging effects of oxygen, similar to the antioxidant properties in vitamin C and the mineral zinc. Since a number of heart conditions are the result of oxygen damage to that organ, Co Q10 has been used protect the heart muscle.

What are Ubiquinone and Ubiquinol?

They are two naturally occurring forms of CoQ10, depending on whether it is oxidized (ubiquinone) or reduced (ubiquinol). When energy is being created in the mitochondria, the oxidized form of CoQ10 (ubiquinone) can accept an electron from another molecule in a process called electron transfer. Once it does, it becomes the reduced form of CoQ10 (ubiquinol). The reduced form can then donate an electron and become oxidized again. This conversion goes on continuously inside the mitochondria during energy production, so both forms of CoQ10 are equally important.

What Are the Benefits of Coenzyme Q10 for Heart Patients?

Ever since Coenzyme Q10 was first identified in 1957 it has been promoted as a healing drug and used for everything from muscular dystrophy to male infertility. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to support most of those claims according to the National Institutes of Health.

The ability of CoQ10 to improve survival rates in people with heart failure, however, has been gaining strength.

In 1985 researchers first demonstrated a connection between low CoQ10 levels and the severity of heart failure. One reason why CoQ10 levels were so low in people with heart disease is that the natural synthesis of it in the body is inhibited by the statin drugs heart patients commonly take. Their blood levels of CoQ10 can be reduced by as much as 40% when taking statins.

This bit of news was enough to fuel the widespread use of CoQ10 supplements by people with congestive heart disease, chest pain, high blood pressure and other heart problems.

Some new research presented at the Heart Failure 2013 meeting in Lisbon, Portugal in May provided much needed proof that it works.

Researchers in Denmark followed 420 heart failure patients recruited from 17 treatment centers in Australia, Malaysia, India, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Sweden and Denmark for 24 months. Participants were randomly assigned to take either 100 mg of CoQ10 three times a day or a placebo.

The study’s primary endpoint was to see how long it took for subjects to have a major adverse cardiovascular event (MACE). Those in the CoQ10 group reduced the risk of MACE by 50%. Only 14% of them reached the primary endpoint during the study compared to 25% in the placebo group.

Should My Dad Take CoQ10?

If you, like my dad, take a stain drug, your CoQ10 levels are probably low. They cannot be raised sufficiently through diet alone to obtain the benefits shown in this study. Instead, CoQ10 can be purchased as an over-the-counter supplement.

It has few side effects when used as recommended, but there are risks. Coenzyme Q10 can lower blood pressure and interfere with blood pressure medications (which my dad takes). It can also interfere with blood thinning drugs (which he takes) and increase the risk of dangerous blot clots.

Knowing that, I advised him not to take it until we meet with his cardiologist to review how it will affect his other medications. That’s the same advice I would give to you.