Temperature Rising Can Be Deadly for Seniors with Chronic Conditions

Probably not a good idea.åÊ
Small rises in summer temperatures may shorten life expectancy for seniors with chronic medical conditions, according to Harvard University School of Public Health researchers.
They studied Medicare data over almost 20 years to follow the long-term health of 3.7 million chronically ill people over 65.
  • Each 1å¡ Celsius increase in summer temperatures increased the death rate for elderly with chronic conditions between 2.8% and 4.0%, depending on the condition.
  • The mortality risk increased the most for those with diabetes.
“The increasing age of the population, the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions such as diabetes, and possible increases in temperature fluctuations due to climate change, means that this public health problem is likely to grow in importance in the future,” warned epidemiologist Joel Schwartz, Ph.D.åÊ
Help your local seniors.
  • Visit them at least twice a day and watch for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

  • Seniors may not feel thirsty even when their bodies are low on fluids.åÊ Encourage them to drink plenty of cool water, juice or sports drinks and to avoid beverages with caffeine or alcohol. Alcohol, in particular, increases dehydration.

  • Take them to air-conditioned places if their residence is hot.åÊ They can also shower or bathe in cool water.åÊ Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness.

Seniors’ bodies do not adjust as well as those of young people to sudden changes in temperature. They are more likely to have a condition that upsets the body’s normal response to heat and are more likely to take medicines that make it harder for the body to control its temperature and to sweat.

People respond to heat exhaustion in different ways, but the CDC reports that common symptoms include:
  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Skin: may be cool and moist
  • Pulse rate: fast and weak
  • Breathing: fast and shallow