Most adults know that summer heat can create dangerous health risks, like sun poisoning and heatstroke. But fewer people are aware of the risks associated with high humidity. Research shows that when the humidity rises, especially when it is combined with soaring temperatures, it can create big problems for people with heart disease.
Here’s what you should know if you are a senior or the caregiver for one.
How Humidity Impacts Heart Health and Blood Pressure
High temperatures combined with high humidity make the heart work harder. This is because more blood flows to the skin, requiring the heart to beat faster. The body may actually circulate twice as much blood per minute compared to a cool day.
Experts say the greatest risks occur when the temperature is above 70 degrees and the humidity is over 70 percent. The danger occurs because there is so much moisture in the air the body’s ability to sweat may be impaired. That’s important because sweating helps the body to cool off.
An added danger is dehydration. Sweating lowers the amount of fluid in the body and increases the risk for dehydration. This puts further strain on the heart.
Risk Factors That Make Adults More Vulnerable to Humidity
While heat and humidity can lead to a health crisis for people of all ages, some are especially vulnerable:
- Adults over the age of 50
- People who have heart, lung, or kidney problems
- Those with poor circulation or circulatory illnesses
- People who follow a low-sodium diet
- Those who take certain medications, such as diuretics, sedatives, and blood-pressure medication
9 Warning Signs of Heat and Humidity-Related Illnesses
It’s also important to learn to recognize the signs of a heat or humidity-related illness that requires medical intervention:
- Fatigue or nausea
- Profuse sweating or an inability to sweat
- Dizziness, confusion, or disorientation
- Skin that is cold and clammy to the touch
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Swelling in the ankles and/or feet
- Dark urine
- Rapid pulse
If more than one or two of these symptoms appear, call 911 or seek medical help immediately.
Summer Safety Tips
While some of the dangers of summer are tough to avoid, there are ways you can protect yourself and the seniors in your life. Here are a few steps you can take to prevent a heat or humidity-related health crisis:
- Drink plenty of water even if you don’t feel thirsty
- Eat foods with a high water content, such as melons, lettuce, cucumber, and berries
- Limit spending time outside when heat and humidity are strongest, typically between the hours of noon and 4:00 pm
- Avoid caffeine, sugary foods and beverages, and alcoholic drinks
- Wear a hat with a bill that shields face, along with loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing made of breathable fabrics
- Apply and re-apply sunscreen frequently while outdoors or riding in a car
Summer is Always Cool at Five Star Communities
Residents at Five Star communities benefit from an air-conditioned environment, nutritious meals, a wellness program and the support of 24/7 caregivers. The best way to learn more is to contact us to arrange a tour. We’ll be happy to introduce you the Five Star Difference!