It is now well recognized that the body temperature of older men and women is lower than that of younger people and that their tolerance of thermal extremes is more limited. The regulation of body temperature does not depend on a single organ, but rather involves almost all the systems of the body, i.e. systems not exclusively dedicated to thermoregulatory functions such as the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Since these deteriorate naturally with advancing age, the decrement in their functions resonates throughout all the bodily processes, including those that control body temperature. To the extent that the age-related changes in some of these, e.g. in the musculoskeletal system, can be slowed, or even prevented, by certain measures, e.g. fitness training, so can the decrements in thermoregulatory functions. Some deficits, however, are unavoidable, e.g. structural skin changes and metabolic alterations. These impact directly on the ability of the elderly to maintain thermal homeostasis, particularly when challenged by ambient thermal extremes. Since the maintenance of a relatively stable, optimal core temperature is one of the body's most important activities, its very survival can be threatened by these disorders. The present article describes the principal, age-associated changes in physiological functions that could affect the ability of seniors to maintain their body temperature when exposed to hot or cold environments.
Copyright © 2011 S. Karger AG, Basel.