Of course, the seniors to which I refer in the title are those of the “well-aged” variety rather than those who are about to enter their last year of high school or college. As discussed in too much detail in my last post, summer in the northern hemisphere begins in the wee hours of the morning on June 21 and it is, by all accounts, the most joyous of seasons for most. However, summer can pose a few heat-related dangers, especially for seniors.
As we age, our bodies become less efficient at regulating body temperature. That’s why many older people tend to enjoy being in a warmer climate than younger folks. As anecdotal evidence, I refer you, once again, to Seinfeld. In episode three of season three (“The Pen”), Elaine is forced to beg Jerry’s elderly parents to turn on the air conditioning in their Florida condo as the previous night she complained to Jerry, “I’m sweating here. I’m in bed…sweating.”
The next day, Jerry’s mom relents, but isn’t even sure she knows how to work the air conditioning. As a result of this lessened ability to regulate temperature, many seniors fail to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat stroke and/or heat exhaustion. So here are a few tips to keep in mind as the mercury (I figure most people reading this post can remember mercury thermometers) begins to rise this summer.
- Use the frickin’ air conditioning if you have it. Electric bill be damned. If you don’t have A/C, then on extremely hot and humid days go someplace that has it and isn’t afraid to crank it. It matters not where you go…a friend’s place, the mall, a museum, the movies, a library are all good choices. You’ll be amazed what a few hours out of the heat can do for your overworked body.
- Avoid too much time in the sun especially if you’re engaged in strenuous activity like yard work or exercise. And if you’re just lounging in the glorious sun, don’t forget to slather on plenty of sunscreen with an SPF of at least 759, or those cool, box-like sunglasses that offer UV protection.
- Get the heat out of a hot kitchen, or if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen…choose whatever cliché you like, just avoid cooking on hot days and simply pop a delicious meal from MagicKitchen.com into the microwave machine which generates no heat at all. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to keep a few MagicKitchen.com meals in your freezer for those scorchers that you know are coming if they haven’t arrived already.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate BEFORE you get thirsty, because if you wait until the thirst arrives, you’re already dehydrated. And try to avoid “hydrating’ with alcohol or caffeinated drinks as they work as diuretics and serve to hasten dehydration.
- Don’t just drink cool water, get in some, whether it’s a cool bath, shower, lake, pool, ocean, river…whatever. The cool water will help cool your blood which circulates throughout your body. Another quick cooling off method is to run cold water over the inside of your wrists. This area has a large number of blood vessels that run close to the surface and that cold water will cool all that blood as it circulates through your body.
- Communicate often with friends and family to let them know you’re doing fine and staying cool on hot days. Use whatever method you, and they, are comfortable with, telephone, cell phone, Twitter, Snapchat…you get that idea.
- Watch the humidity level. I’ve heard Arizona is hot, but it’s a dry heat. That, however, is not the case in many places within our country. High humidity levels are dangerous to us due to the fact that it causes our body’s cooling mechanism, sweating, not to work effectively. The reason we perspire is to send liquid to the surface so that it can evaporate, thus, cooling our bodies. When it’s excessively humid, that sweat on our skin’s surface doesn’t evaporate due to the high-water content in the atmosphere. As a result, our bodies work harder to try and stay cool, placing more stress on our bodies, primarily on the heart. So when the humidity’s up, keep your activity level down.
I’m not implying that you should cloister yourself in an air conditioned room for the entire summer. I’m just giving you the same warning that Sergeant Esterhaus gave his officers after briefings on Hill Street Blues, “Hey, let’s be careful out there.”