Nottinghamshire County councillor Joyce Bosnjak has stressed of the importance of people making sure they are prepared for the cold months ahead.
Coun Bosnjak, chairman of the public health committee at the council, said it was vital the people ensured their homes were ready for winter and that they would be able to keep warm when temperatures drop.
And she particularly urged people to look out for elderly or vulnerable friends, relatives and neighbours, for whom keeping warm this winter could be a matter of life or death.
“As winter approaches, it is getting colder each week and most of us take it for granted to have a warm environment both at work or at home,” she said.
“However, during the winter months, the cold weather can wreak havoc on some people’s health.
“Every winter in the UK, one older person dies needlessly every seven minutes.
“That’s 300 people dying in Nottinghamshire each winter, over and above what would be expected on average for the whole year.
“This is a shocking statistic and something that should shame us all as a society.
“The numbers are even higher in very cold weather.
“But even mild winters increase the risk of people dying.”
One of the problems is that the UK has some of the worst levels of home energy efficiency in Europe, and other much colder countries have lower death rates in winter than the UK, because their homes are better insulated.
“As we get older, our bodies respond differently to the cold, with those aged over 85 most at risk,” Coun Bosnjak continued.
“Older people tend to be less active, spend more time indoors and have reduced muscle and body fat to help insulate them from the cold.
“This increases the likelihood of a heart attack, stroke, pneumonia, and other chest diseases, which together cause seven out of 10 of the additional deaths.
“To reduce this risk, it is important to keep your home warm.
“This means 21 degrees Celsius in the living room and at least 16 degrees in the rest of the house.
Many people worry about the cost of heating but Coun Bosnjak said that, again, making sure you are prepared now will mean you are not caught out later on.
“Ensuring your home is well insulated, your boiler is serviced and that you are on the best energy tariff is really important,” she said.
“And there are local schemes to help you with this.
“They will also ensure that you are receiving all the relevant winter payments.
“The council’s ‘keep warm this winter’ information cards with built-in thermometers are available in libraries and via social events such as lunch clubs.
“As well as keeping your home warm, it is important to stay as active as possible and to wrap up well when going outside – with hats and gloves, as well as coats, scarves and warm shoes or boots.
“Look after elderly friends and neighbours, checking that they are warm especially at night.
“It is really helpful if older people have stocks of food and enough medicines so that they don’t need to go out in really bad weather.
“Winter is the season of goodwill, so let’s all do what we can to help both ourselves, and those around us, to enjoy the season and keep warm, and reduce that figure of 300 deaths as much as we possibly can.”