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Galveston County has a significant number of “Senior Citizens”, meaning individuals 65 and over; approximately 18 to 20 percent of us fall into that category and like it
or not, there are certain changes that occur as we age that we might not consider as the temperatures rise. Take a peek at the following and if you are of that age or you
have a family member that is, take note of a few of these tips to better understand how your body reacts to heat as we gear up for what looks to be a scorcher of a summer.
Summer means gardening, cookouts, and just enjoying the great outdoors, but a heat wave can pose a major threat, especially for seniors. “Seniors won’t have as
great an ability to sweat as younger people, and sweat is how you cool yourself, explained William B. Greenough III, MD, a geriatrician and professor of medicine at
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. Dehydration may increase the risk of a
serious cardiovascular event like a heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure. An Australian study found
that during a record-breaking heat wave, there was a significant increase in trips to the emergency
room for heat-related illness and dehydration, particularly in those age 75 and older for whom the
heat triggered a 13 percent increase in deaths. “It’s very important to stay well hydrated, increasing
fluids and salts to accommodate for the salt losses,” Dr. Greenough said. Try these tips to keep
your cool during sizzling summer days.
Dehydration is a major concern for seniors in the summertime heat, but don’t wait until you feel
thirsty to reach for a beverage. “Drink plenty and a variety of liquids,” advised Heidi White, MD, associate
professor of medicine in geriatrics at Duke University in Durham, N.C. “Too much water can
lead to electrolyte imbalance. Concentrated urine is a bladder irritant and actually increases trips to
the restroom.” Instead, keep plenty of sweat replacement drinks, such as Gatorade, on hand and
drink them when you’re sweating more than usual.
Skip your usual iced tea or coffee in the summer to help avoid hydration in a summertime heat
wave. All that caffeine “works on our kidneys as a diuretic, depleting our bodies of needed liquid,”
said Dr. White. “It is also a bladder irritant and increases trips to the restroom. Why spend your
summer searching for a restroom?” Opt for water or sweat replacement drinks instead.
Taking a cool shower or bath can help bring down your body temperature when your skin is
sizzling from the summertime heat. “Evaporation gets rid of
heat from the body,” explained Greenough. You can also
soak a small towel or cloth in cool water and drape it around
your neck or on top of your head to help cool down when
you need it, especially if you’re outdoors and can’t get back
inside into the air conditioning.
When it’s really hot, do turn on the air conditioning, especially
when you sleep, to help you stay comfortable and get
a good night’s rest. “Our body temperature naturally drops
a small amount at night to promote sleep. Being too hot at
night will make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep,” said
White. If you don’t have air conditioning, Greenough suggested
turning on fans and opening up the windows in your
home to allow cool air to circulate and help you cool down
with a breeze from the outdoors.
Protect yourself by looking for early warning signs of dehydration,
such as urine that’s very dark in color, and taking
quick action by increasing fluids. Greenough also suggests
stepping on the scale and weighing yourself regularly.
Know your normal body weight, and look for any deviation.
“If you’ve lost 2 to 3 pounds, you need to drink it back up to
your normal body weight,” he added.

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