Too Hot to Handle: Don’t Ignore Heat Warnings

June 16, 2017 in Our News & Bulletins by Uptown HC

With summer comes heat waves, and with heat waves come heat warnings . Yet many older people will ignore those warnings, despite the fact that seniors are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke. A Kent State University study of people over 65 found that 90 percent of those polled knew about the risks associated with heat and humidity, but only 15 percent took heed. The reason? The majority thought that the warnings applied to people older than them, because they didn’t see themselves as old.

It may help to understand why we have more trouble tolerating heat when we’re older than we did when we were younger.

Many seniors have chronic health problems such as heart disease or diabetes that affect their ability to process high temperatures. Medications often prescribed to seniors can predispose them to heat-related disorders–diuretics cause water loss and make dehydration worse, for instance.

But even healthy seniors are still at risk, simply because our bodies lose the cardiovascular ability to cope with heat as we age.

When we’re overheated, our cardiovascular system sends more blood to the skin to help cool us off. To produce the extra blood that is needed to do this and keep our heart and other organs adequately supplied, we need more water…which we may not have because we’ve lost body fluids due to sweating. This is why hydration in high heat is so important. But our sense of thirst decreases as we age, so older people may not even be aware they’re becoming dangerously dehydrated.

The solution is to drink more fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol, coffee, tea, and caffeine, which are diuretics. Save your strenuous activity for cooler mornings and evenings. With a few precautions, summer doesn’t have to be too hot to handle.

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