How Your Brain Affects Your Comfort and Temperature

Caregiver placing a blanket on a elderly woman

One of the classic signs of aging is having less awareness of our internal temperature. If you notice that your loved one doesn’t feel cold, or isn’t covering up when temperatures drop, you may think that the behavior is normal. On the opposite side of the scale, your loved one may feel very cold, and always seem to need blankets and cardigans even when temperatures are warmer. Well, these common symptoms may be occurring inside the brain! Are you ready to learn how your brain affects your comfort and temperature? Keep reading to learn more.

Deep inside the brain is an almond-sized structure called the hypothalamus. You probably already know that it is there, most people do. But did you know that the hypothalamus regulates temperature controls? Part of its job is to serve as your internal thermostat, and as we age, the thermoregulatory control can get weaker or even fluctuate.

The Danger of a Weakened Hypothalamus

While it may seem easier to simply put on more layers as you age, and move to milder environments, there is a certain danger to a weakened hypothalamus. Studies have shown that a weaker thermoregulatory control in the hypothalamus may also contribute to a weakened fever response. More than 20 percent of adults older than 65 can end up in the hospital with serious bacterial infections that don’t trigger a fever. This means that it is important for family caregivers to watch for other symptoms and signs of infection before they become dangerous.

Can You Strengthen the Hypothalamus?

The hypothalamus is responsible for much more than just thermoregulation. This amazing part of the brain also controls metabolism. Moderate exercise has been shown to cause the hypothalamus to release hormones that are linked to obesity resistance! To top it off, when you exercise, and work this part of your brain, it lowers your stress levels, increases blood flow, and warms you up. Whether exercise itself causes your hypothalamus to stay in shape as you age hasn’t been specifically determined, what we do know is that exercise can help you regulate your temperature and keep your brain healthier longer.

What is “Moderate Exercise”

If you or your loved one is struggling with thermoregulation, you can warm up with a simple walk, or a few moments of yoga. The point is to get up, get moving, and cause those parts of your brain to start working. This is most often done with moderate exercise, which means that you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate. The CDC defines moderate exercise as an activity that still allows you to talk, but not sing the words to your favorite song. Some examples might include:

  • Fast walking
  • Riding a bicycle
  • Playing basketball, tennis, or volleyball
  • Water aerobics
  • Hiking
  • Skateboarding or rollerblading
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Vacuum Cleaning

In conclusion, the next time you or your loved one feels the need to bundle up when no one else does, it may be due to your hypothalamus. You can warm yourself up by exercising, which also causes your hypothalamus to get its own workout! If you would like some help getting your loved one up and moving, we can help! Contact Homewatch CareGivers of Ellicott City today to learn more.

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