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It’s the height of summer: time for walking, biking, barbecues with family and friends, and countless other enjoyable activities. It’s fun to be outside when the sun is shining. However, now that the sweltering days are here, seniors need to be aware that they need to be more careful than they used to be, when they are out in hot weather.

seniors-are-at-increased-risk-of-overheatingIt’s normal for your body to change as you get older. By the age of 70, your body will differ in numerous ways you should be aware of, in order to avoid potentially serious health issues. These differences combine to make seniors more likely to experience excessive changes in body temperature when they are in hot or cold environments. That means seniors who are out on a hot day are more likely to overheat and suffer heat exhaustion or heat stroke than they were when they were younger.

Several of the most important of these changes are as follows:

First: as you age, your sweat glands become more inefficient. When it’s hot, and your brain tells your body to perspire so you cool down, your body may not follow the instructions properly. You don’t perspire (or not enough), so you don’t cool down, and you start to overheat. Also, especially if you are less physically active as you get older you may have reduced circulation. This is an additional factor that negatively affects your body’s ability to regulate its temperature.

Not drinking enough water, being over- or underweight, reducing salt intake to combat high blood pressure, and certain medications, can all exacerbate the problem.

Drinking enough water seems obvious, but here’s something else you might not be aware of: seniors are less aware of being thirsty. Dehydration is a very common, and sometimes serious, problem with older people. Your body just isn’t as good a communicator as it used to be. And when you’re dehydrated, it’s easier for your body temperature to rise. Once an older person’s body temperature rises (or falls), it takes longer for his or her temperature to return to normal, once out of the too-hot or too-cold environment.

Dehydration and heat stroke can go hand in hand. Both of them have similar symptoms – dizziness, muscle cramps, headache, rapid heartbeat. Seniors need to take these symptoms seriously and take immediate action.

If you are a senior, any senior, you really do need to pay more attention to your body in the dog days of summer than you did when you were a mere youth of 60. If you make it a habit to drink a glass of water at regular times during the day (such as meal times and two or three other set times), and to consciously avoid being out in the hot sun, it will become routine. You’ll protect yourself without feeling as though it’s a burden. If you find yourself in an overheated environment and begin to feel unwell, do not delay: find a cool spot where you can sit back and relax, have a cold drink, and literally, chill out. Ahhhhh… Then, go back to enjoying your life.

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