Oh no, Grandma's melting!

Senior citizens at risk for heat-related illnesses and death during summer months

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While everyone else is enjoying the hot summer temperatures with wild abandon, a 90-degree day can be a life and death situation for senior citizens.

That's because senior citizens are at much higher risk for heat-related illnesses or even death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that nearly 700 Americans die annually from extreme heat.

Heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion or heat stroke, occur when the body is not able to properly cool itself. While the body normally cools itself by sweating, extreme heat pushes a person's body temperature into the danger zone. Sustained high body temperatures can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs.

The simplest solution is to stay hydrated, said Heritage Health Dr. Michael Meza.

“As we age, our brain forgets to tell us that we are thirsty,” said Meza. “We must compensate for this decreased feedback mechanism by increasing your fluid intake throughout the day.”

Here are some heat-related realities for seniors:

  • Older adults do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature.

  • They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat.

  • They are more likely to take prescription medicines that affect the body's ability to control its temperature or sweat.

So what are symptoms you should watch out for?

Heat stroke

  • High body temperature (103°F or higher)

  • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin

  • Fast, strong pulse

  • Headache

  • Feeling dizzy

  • Nausea

  • Feeling confused

  • Losing consciousness (passing out)

Heat exhaustion

  • Fast, weak pulse

  • Heavy sweating

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Muscle cramps

  • Feeling tired or weak

  • Feeling dizzy

  • Headache

  • Fainting (passing out)

  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin

Before you reach a medical crisis like heat exhaustion or heat stroke, drink a glass of water. It can have life-saving consequences.

“This will prevent dehydration which can lead to serious complications including low blood pressure, kidney damage and heat stroke,” said Dr. Meza. “If you think you might be suffering from heat stroke, seek immediately medical attention. This is an emergency.”

For more information, visit www.myheritagehealth.org

 --Written by Marc Stewart, Director of Sponsored Content

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