UK government warns vulnerable with winter warming advice


London: As the winter months approach, we all need to plan ahead and take steps to help protect ourselves from the elements. Around 20,000 people die each year in England and Wales as a result of the cold weather and in especially cold winters, deaths in the UK could rise as high as 40,000.

The British government’s Department of Health’s Keep Warm Keep Well campaign offers older people, the disabled and those on low incomes advice on keeping warm and staying healthy during the colder months. A free winter guide gives plenty of practical tips as well as information on financial support that might be available, such as grants for home improvements to help make houses warmer or help to meet the cost of heating bills.

Britain’s longest serving TV weather forecaster, Michael Fish MBE (seen in our picture right) and who is championing this year’s campaign, said:

“There is a direct link between cold weather and serious illness – as the temperature drops, the mortality rate rises. A couple of changes to your lifestyle or home can make all the difference to your wellbeing during the winter.”

You can keep warm and well by taking a few precautionary steps:
• Make sure your home is warm this winter:
o Check your heating system works
o Ensure your home is energy efficient so heating bills are kept to a minimum
• Make sure you’re healthy this winter:
o Check with your GP to see if you qualify for a free flu and/or pneumo jab
o Eat well, dress sensibly and take exercise
Keep Warm Keep Well is a partnership between the Department of Health, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), The Department for Work and Pensions, Help the Aged, Age Concern, National Energy Action, Energywatch and WRVS.

For more information about the Keep Warm Keep Well policy, please contact Erica McAlpine in the Department of Health Press Office on 020 7210 5239 or


1. Source of number of cold weather deaths

2. A copy of the Keep Warm Keep Well booklet can be obtained by writing to DH Publications, PO Box 777, London SE1 6XH. The book is published in a range of languages and in an easy read format. For the hard of hearing, an audio version of the leaflet is also available

3. Campaign materials can be downloaded from the Department of Health website

4. To find out about getting a flu or pneumo jab, people should approach their GP, practice nurse or pharmacist, visit, NHS Direct Interactive on digital satellite TV, or call NHS Direct on 0845 4647

5. For advice on any aspect of Winter Fuel Payments (including eligibility), call the helpline on 08459 15 15 15 (8.30am to 4.30am, Monday-Friday). Please use textphone 0845 601 5613 if you have speech or hearing difficulties. Please have your National Insurance number ready when you call. You can also go to

6. Call a helpline for advice on keeping warm and well this winter:
• Warm Front Scheme 0800 072 0151
• Home Heat Helpline 0800 33 66 99
• NHS Direct (health advice and information) 0845 4647
Calls to NHS Direct cost a maximum of 5 pence per minute from a BT landline. The cost of calls from mobiles and other networks may vary. Your service provider may charge a minimum cost per call. For patients’ safety all calls are recorded

7. Help and advice is also available from:
• Home Improvement Agencies 0145 789 1909
• The Energy Saving Trust’s Energy Efficiency Advice Centres 0800 512 012
• Energywatch 0191 239 3291
• National Energy Action (NEA)


1) Get a flu jab
This is available free from your GP if you are 65 or over, or any age over 6 months with a serious respiratory condition, heart, kidney or liver disease, diabetes or lowered immunity.

2) Dress well
You are at risk if you get cold. Wearing the right amount of clothes in layers and putting on a hat when you go outside, can help keep you much warmer.

3) Eat well
Food is a vital source of warmth. Eat a mixed diet each day and have regular hot meals and drinks throughout the day.

4) Keep moving
Moving around is good for your health and generates extra body heat, so any exercise or activity will help keep you warm.

5) Heat well
Try to keep a temperature of 21 degrees in all rooms you use during the day. Or, at the very least heat your living room during the day and your bedroom at night. Use a hot water bottle or an electric blanket (but never at the same time).

6) Plan ahead
Check your heating system and gas safety. Fitting draught proofing or insulation and getting your chimney swept are just a few things you can do now to make a difference.

7) Get financial support
Initiatives such as the Warm Front Scheme, Winter Fuel Payments and the Home Heat Helpline offer advice and grants for energy-efficiency, fuel bills and insulation for those most vulnerable to the winter. Call to find out your eligibility.

8) Stop smoking
Giving up smoking will boost your health for the winter, reduce your chances of a heart attack and improve your body’s circulation.

9) Look out for your neighbours
If you have an elderly neighbour or relative, make routine visits to their home and keep an eye out for them in the winter months.

10) Look after yourself if you get ill
Keep a well-stocked medicine chest to help you prepare for potential illness. If you go down with flu you should stay at home and take plenty of rest.

Winter illnesses increase risk of heart attack

London: New research reveals that the risk of heart attack and stroke increases as a result of winter infections.

The joint study sponsored by the British Heart Foundation, the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust discovered thatbronchitis can increase the risk of a heart attack by five times.The risk of having a stroke also trebles within the first few days of falling ill, according to researchers.

They found that the increased danger was caused not just by chest illnesses but other infections such as cystitis.

They believe inflammation may have something to do with it – either by helping to form the plaques that block arteries or by contributing to their rupture and causing heart attacks or strokes.

Around 300,000 people have heart attacks in Britain each year, 117,000 of them fatal. Every year more than 130,000 people in England and Wales suffer a stroke.

The latest study, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, confirms that common infections play a part in triggering acute heart and circulatory problems.

The researchers examined the medical records of more than 40,000 people and discovered that the risk of heart attack was five times higher than normal in the first three days after a respiratory tract infection such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

The risk of stroke was found to be three times higher during the same period. The same applied to urinary tract infections such as cystitis.

However, in the following weeks after illness the risk of having a heart attack or stroke gradually decreased.
Professor Patrick Vallance, a researcher on the project at University College London, said: ‘The work shows that the timing of a heart attack is not random.’

He said the finding was important because it showed showed a surge in risk following a range of infections – not just chest infections, as might be expected.

Dr Liam Smeeth from the MRC, lead researcher on the project, said ‘This knowledge will open up new avenues for research and discovery.

‘Armed with the information we have found, we can begin to develop new strategies to reduce the occurrence of heart attacks and strokes.’

The BHF advised people to protect their hearts this winter by staying warm, eating a good diet, having a flu jab and being alert for unusual symptoms.

The researchers also investigated whether vaccinations, including flu and tetanus jabs, increased the risk of heart attacks or strokes. They found no increased risk associated with the vaccines, confirming their safety record.