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How Dementia Can Impair the Body’s Ability to Regulate Temperature

Jan 05,2024

Dementia is widely recognized for its impact on cognitive abilities and memory, but one lesser-known aspect of dementia is its potential to impair the body’s ability to regulate temperature.  Read our blog to learn more about the connection between dementia and temperature regulation, along with the implications and potential risks involved.


The Role of Temperature Regulation in the Body

Our bodies strive to maintain an optimal internal temperature of approximately 98.6°F (37°C) to ensure proper functioning of vital organs and metabolic processes. This regulation involves the hypothalamus in the brain.


How Dementia Interferes with Temperature Regulation

  1. Impaired Central Control: The brain’s hypothalamus plays a pivotal role in regulating body temperature by responding to changes in external conditions and internal cues. Dementia can damage or disrupt the functioning of the hypothalamus, leading to a diminished ability to control body temperature.
  2. Reduced Perception: Individuals with dementia may experience reduced perception of temperature changes. They might not recognize when they are feeling too hot or too cold, making it difficult for them to take appropriate measures to adjust their clothing or environment.
  3. Ineffective Responses: Dementia can impair the body’s ability to respond effectively to temperature fluctuations. For example, the shivering response, which generates heat to combat cold, may be compromised in individuals with advanced dementia.


Implications and Risks

The impairment of temperature regulation due to dementia can have several significant implications and risks:

  1. Hypothermia: Dementia may cause someone to become more susceptible to hypothermia, a condition where the body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Symptoms can include confusion, disorientation, and shivering, which can worsen existing cognitive challenges.
  2. Overheating: In warm weather, individuals with dementia may struggle to recognize the signs of overheating, leading to heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
  3. Worsened Cognitive Symptoms: Prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold, can exacerbate cognitive symptoms and behavioral changes associated with dementia, making daily life more challenging.
  4. Increased Vulnerability: Persons living with Dementia may become less aware of their surroundings and more prone to accidents or injuries related to temperature extremes.


Understanding the impact of dementia on temperature regulation is crucial for caregivers, family members, and healthcare professionals.  Caregivers should take proactive steps to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for those they are caring for, including maintaining a suitable indoor temperature, providing appropriate clothing, and monitoring for signs of discomfort or distress. By addressing temperature regulation challenges, we can enhance the quality of life and safety of those we love and support.


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