Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Heat Related Deaths in Seniors

Did you know that over 1,000 people die each year from heat related deaths, and most of them are over the age of 50?  According "UCI Health," a publication from the University of California at Irvine, seniors are especially vulnerable to heat related illnesses.

What is particularly said about this cause of death is that most of the time they are entirely preventable. Unfortunately, many seniors don't recognize when they are suffering the symptoms of a heat related illness ... until it is too late.

Causes of Heat Related Illnesses

As we get older, we perspire less.  In addition, our blood vessels have a reduced capacity to constrict and expand.  These two factors make it harder for our bodies to cool themselves, and makes us more vulnerable to the effects of heat.  If you have diabetes, heart disease or chronic kidney disease, you may be at an even greater risk.  Sometimes, older people also  feel cold, even when it is hot outside.  These factors can all spell trouble for us as we age.

About four years ago, when my husband was in his early 60's, he was playing golf in Palm Springs on a hot June afternoon.  When he returned to our hotel room, he was shaking, and felt dizzy and nauseous.    We immediately recognized that he was suffering from heat exhaustion.  He took a shower, drank some water, relaxed in our air conditioned room, and the symptoms subsided.  Later  that evening he got a massage, which also helped cool him down.  If his symptoms had not gotten better quickly, or had gotten worse, we would have had to seek medical help.  Now when he plays golf in the desert, he only plays in the early morning.  He learned his lesson!

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

What are the symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke?  Everyone needs to be able to recognize when they may be overheated, even if they are not sweating and thing they are OK.  The symptoms are:

rapid pulse
dry mouth
excessive thirst
fainting in extreme cases. 

If you have been exposed to high temperatures and experience any of these symptoms, go into an air conditioned space, wipe yourself down with cool water and, if the symptoms do not subside quickly, contact a doctor immediately!

How to Stay Safe in Hot Weather

Here are a few common sense steps everyone should take to stay safe when the weather is hot outside:

Use air conditioning in your home, if possible.
Use air conditioning in your car, even for short distances.
Go to a mall, library or senior center if you don't have air conditioning in your home.
Drink water and other non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic liquids, even if you are not thirsty.
Avoid excessive heat whenever possible, even for short periods of time.
Stay out of the sun.
Avoid strenuous activities in the heat (like playing golf).
If you are outside, wear a hat, light clothing, and sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

Take care of yourself, and live to enjoy your retirement!

If you are interested in other health issues that could affect you in retirement, or topics that include where to retire, financial planning and changing family relationships, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

You are reading from the blog: http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com


  1. Thanks for the great tips on dealing with hot weather!

  2. Hopefully this will help people become more aware of their elderly neighbors and family members, and save a few lives.


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