Summer and Elderly Heat Stroke
Climate change is definitively upon us. We have already experienced historic heat this summer. Hot weather can be dangerous. And, our elderly parents are particularly vulnerable to its effects. In fact, 12,000 Americans die annually from heat-related causes. More than 80% of victims are older than 60.
During the summer, older adults are at increased risk of heat-related illness. This includes heat exhaustion and heatstroke — a potentially fatal condition. Fortunately, by following a few simple precautions, you can help keep your aging parents safe all summer long. Please learn about the risks associated with heat and elderly people.
The elderly are more vulnerable to heat for several reasons:
— Our ability to sweat decreases with age. Older adults produce less sweat because their bodies retain less water. Less available sweat results in a reduced ability to cool through evaporation.
— Many seniors have underlying health conditions that make them less able to tolerate heat. Impaired cardiovascular function can make it difficult for the body to regulate its internal temperature. Our blood vessels are the body’s heat ducts. When the cardiovascular system is impaired, it can be difficult for the body to transmit heat to the surface for dissipation.
— Some medicines can contribute to dehydration. Many medications that treat heart disease, kidney conditions, and blood pressure have diuretic effects. This means they trigger the body to expel water and salt through urination. Our bodies use salts as electrolytes and, without proper replenishment, the body remains dehydrated.
— Seniors may not feel the urge to drink and can forget to hydrate. Being well hydrated is key to maintaining optimal bodily and cognitive function. When dehydrated, cognitive decline and physical weakness may perpetuate the cycle of insufficient water consumption.
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John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions.
Phone: (781) 378-2164