According to research published on March 28, 2021, in Geophysical Research Letters, long, hot summers are becoming longer and hotter, and this trend may continue as a result of global warming. Autumns, winters, and springs have gotten shorter over the last 60 years, while summers have grown by nearly 20 days. Among the many concerns, this raises is an increased risk of heat-related health problems, particularly as we age.
Heat and aging
Maintaining a core (internal) body temperature is critical to your ability to function. "In a hot environment, your body temperature rises. Sweating and carrying blood away from the core of the body to the skin surface, where heat leaves the body, are two ways your body releases heat. However, as you get older, these functions become less effective. Heat can accumulate, putting organs at risk of serious damage "Dr. Kalpana Shankar, director of Geriatric Emergency Medicine at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital, concurs.
Even when you can't see it, you're releasing fluid as well as heat — not just through sweating, but also through your breath and evaporation through your skin. You can become dehydrated in a hot environment due to the constant need to release body heat. Meanwhile, we're already prone to dehydration as we get older. "Your fluid intake may be low due to a decreased sensation of thirst and hunger," explains Dr Shankar. "Some medications, such as diuretics, also promote fluid loss."
However, the body requires fluid in order to continue releasing heat and lowering your core temperature. As a result, the cycle continues, causing heat to build up quickly inside you.
Heat-related health risks
Heat exposure raises the risk of two potentially fatal conditions.
The first is heat exhaustion, which indicates that you're dehydrated and struggling to cool down. A common symptom is a mild confusion. "You may also feel dizzy, sweat excessively, has muscle cramps, fatigue, headaches, thirst, weakness, imbalance, or nausea. Your skin may also feel cold or clammy, and you may notice that your heart is racing and your breathing is faster "Dr. Shankar claims
The other condition is heat stroke, which occurs when the body's ability to regulate core temperature is completely lost. "At this point, the body temperature rapidly rises to 106° F, and the body is unable to sweat," Dr. Shankar explains. "Temperatures of 103° or higher, hot and dry skin that is not sweating, a very fast heart rate, severe headaches, passing out, and severe confusion are all warning signs. Heatstroke is a true emergency: if not treated immediately [call 911], it can cause organ damage and death."
Your daily water requirements
Divide your body weight (in pounds) by three to determine how many ounces of water or fluids you require each day. A 150-pound person, for example, would require 50 ounces, or about six cups, of fluids per day. "If you're on water pills or your doctor wants you to limit fluid intake, ask how much water you can drink when you're outside or in a hot environment with limited ventilation or air conditioning," says Dr. Kalpana Shankar of Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. "In addition, if you have signs of dehydration, such as dark urine or a dry mouth, increase your water intake."
What you are able to do
Dr. Shankar suggests the following precautions to avoid heat-related health problems.
Keep hydrated. Drink plenty of water both before and during outdoor activities. Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol, which can dehydrate you further. Remember that eating foods high in water content, such as cucumbers, watermelon, lettuce, and strawberries, can also provide fluids.
Extend your time outside before or after the daily high temperatures. Whether it's a daily walk, yard work, or another outdoor activity, try to do it before or after the sun rises and temperatures rise.
Put on your costume. When going outside, wear lightweight, light-coloured clothing that will not absorb heat. Wear sunscreen and sunglasses as well.
Seek out the shade. When going outside, try to stay in the shade if possible, or use a UV-protective umbrella.
Calm down. Seek out air-conditioned environments, take a cool bath or shower, and keep strenuous activity to a minimum.
Maintain vigilance. ""Watch for signs of heat intolerance, and don't be fooled just because you're not sweating," Dr. Shankar warns. If you experience any of these symptoms, get a cool drink and call for assistance."