“Beat the heat” is taking on a whole new meaning these days. And with summer on the way, trust me when say it’s a meaning you can’t afford to ignore.
Because the sharp increase in heat waves since the 1960s isn’t just uncomfortable. New research has revealed they can also be, quite literally, deadly.
We’re ALL at risk when the temperatures soar, of course. But for men specifically, heat-linked heart problems and heart attacks have been quietly climbing right alongside the growing number of heatwaves.
I’ll share all those details with you in a moment. But let’s first take a closer look at how rising temperatures are a threat to ALL seniors.
Rising temperatures are a health threat
Your core temperature should generally fall somewhere between 97- and 99-degrees Fahrenheit. And even during the summer months, your body tends to do a great job keeping it in that range.
When your temperature rises above that window, you start to sweat. The sweat makes you feel more comfortable, and as it evaporates, it helps to cool your body back down.
When temperatures soar during heatwaves, your blood vessels expand, and overheated blood gets pushed to the surface and away from critical organs. Think of that red, flushed face you get when you’ve gotten overheated in the past.
But when the mercury shoots up above 95 and stays there for a long time, cooling down becomes more difficult without taking some extra steps. And if you’re a senior, there’s a wrinkle. You could be facing an additional challenge.
Our bodies typically alert us when we’re getting too hot when we’re young. And we instinctively respond by doing things to cool ourselves off, such as gulping down cold water and turning on the air conditioning.
But as we age, that internal thermostat we’ve always relied on often doesn’t work quite as well as it once did. Plus, common meds such as blood thinners, beta-blockers, and diuretics can make it tough to regulate our temperature.
So our bodies may not always send us the crucial cues we need putting us in the danger zone without us even knowing it.
Heatwaves may trigger heart attacks
With the number of yearly heat waves being about triple what they were in the 1960s, the chances of suffering from a heat-related emergency are skyrocketing.
That alone could lead to tragic results for men and women. In fact, one recent analysis estimated that soaring temps are responsible for the deaths of 5,600 Americans every year.
But now, a breakthrough study is raising new alarm bells over those same heat waves. And this time, it’s the guys, along with Black Americans, who are at an even HIGHER risk. The soaring temps can lead to an increased strain on their hearts, triggering heart attacks and other heart events.
Researchers from the American College of Cardiology analyzed temperature trends and heart-linked deaths in all 3,108 U.S. counties in the 48 contiguous states.
They figured out…
- each county’s average daily maximum temp from 1979 through 2007
- all the extreme heat days from 2008 through 2017 (90F or higher)
For every extra day of extreme heat in a month, there was an associated 0.13 percent bump in deaths from heart disease. And when you crunch the numbers, that works out to an average of 600 to 700 extra deaths a year.
Heatwaves are a threat to men and seniors
An even deeper dive into the data revealed some other troubling trends. Each day of extreme heat was associated with a…
- 21 percent increase in heart disease deaths among men (but not women)
- 27 leap in heart disease deaths among Black people
In other words, men and Black Americans are at a higher risk for fatal heart events during heat waves. And if you’re a senior, your heat-related risks rise even higher.
Summer is right around the corner, and when it arrives, so will the elevated temps. If you’re in any of the groups I talked about today on days when the mercury climbs into the 90s or above, you should take special precautions to stay safe.
Be sure to drink plenty of water and wear loose, breathable clothing. Whenever it’s possible, stay inside in air-conditioning during heatwaves. If your home doesn’t have AC consider spending a few hours in the hottest part of the day somewhere that does, like a mall or cooling center if they have them in your town.
Once you’re back home, place fans in or near your windows blowing out to clear the hot air that’s built up inside. And if you do ever feel overheated, running cold water over your wrists and neck (areas rich in blood vessels) can help reduce your temperature, as can a cool shower or bath.
But your heart isn’t the only organ at risk during summer heatwaves. Your risk for acute kidney injury can skyrocket too. I have all the details in my earlier report here.
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