According to information derived from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to immense levels of heat and humidity claims the lives of hundreds of people each year in the United States – especially in the Southeastern regions states, which include Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Maryland, Florida, Virginia, West Virginia, Mississippi, Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
Statistics show that from the years of 1999 to 2009, there were a total of 7,233 lives shortened as a result of heat. The current average of heat-related deaths each year is nearly 700. The people most at risk for heat-related illnesses and deaths are the elderly. In most cases, these individuals do not even realize that their body is overheating and that their health – and possibly their life – is in danger.
In this post, you will learn about the devastating effects of heat on the elderly and 3 strategies for warding off the dangers of summertime heat among those in this particular age group.
Shortened Life Expectancy Directly Related to Variability in Summer Temperatures
A study was conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health from the years of 1985 to 2006. In this study, 3.7 million people at least 65 years of age or older were evaluated. All of the individuals analyzed had been previously diagnosed with some type of chronic health condition. Examples of these medical complications included obesity, diabetes, heart disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and conditions similar in nature.
Those analyzed were from a total of 135 different cities throughout the United States. The study concluded that a variation of just 1.8 degrees during the summer months could instantly increase the rate of death for a senior citizen with a pre-existing medical condition.
Simply put, the variabilities that occur within the summer months can instantaneously shorten the life span of the elderly. Additionally, it was concluded that the elderly not suffering from a chronic health issue may also experience a shorten lifespan as a result of heat exposure and variability.
Medical professionals feel that this stems from the result of the ineffectiveness of the body to produce sweat and circulation decreases that naturally occur with age. Furthermore, the body of an elderly person stores fat in a much different manner than the body of a younger person. As a result, they often feel cool, despite the warmth that surrounds them.
Steps to Warding off Heat-Related Dangers
Now that we have expounded on the dangers of summertime heat among the elderly and why this age group is most affected by high temperatures, it is time to share some simple strategies that may be used to ward off heat-related dangers. These steps are as follows:
- It is common for seniors to dress in an inappropriate manner during periods of outdoor warmth. This is – in part – due to the internal temperature regulation system in the body being thrown off due to the way that the body stores fat and distributes sweat. Individuals in this age group may opt for sweaters and form-fitting clothing pieces in an attempt to stay warm – especially when in air-conditioned spaces. You should ensure that the individual is wearing clothing that is lightweight and is light in color. Hats may be worn, but they must be woven loosely to avoid trapping heat around the head. The individual should be encouraged to avoid form-fitting garments, jackets, sweaters, and similar forms of clothing.
- The elderly should be encouraged to consume clear liquids – such as water or those that contain high levels of electrolytes – in order to maintain proper hydration during the summer months. Beverages that contain caffeine, sodium, sugar, and alcohol should be avoided as all of these will dehydrate the body and further complicate the body’s ability to naturally cool itself. Additionally, there are many foods that may be consumed that will increase the hydration levels of the body. A popular summertime option is watermelon.
- Air-conditioning is an absolute must for the elderly. While it is true that not all seniors will have a desire to run their air units, they must be informed of the dangers associated with not utilizing the device and encouraged to keep it on an ideal setting – no higher than 78 degrees in the summer months. Even if they do not run the unit around the clock, it has been found that an elderly person that is in an air-conditioned environment for at least four hours during the hottest part of the day in their area is less likely to suffer from heat complications. This is especially true within the States of Georgia and Florida.
As you can see, our elderly population is at risk for many heat-related issues. These may include overheating, dehydration, heat cramps, heat stroke, coma, and even death. By taking the measures contained within this guide and applying them, you will be able to protect those older loved ones that you cherish so very much.
For more information on steps that will allow you and your loved ones to cope with the blistering temperatures during the summer months, visit our tips section today at: https://ronaldsmithhvac.com/resources/useful-tips/