Did you know that extreme heat kills 1,500 Americans every year?
That’s more deaths than can be attributed to tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, lightning, or any other weather event combined. And older adults are particularly at risk during an excessive heat event, but our 3 cool tips can help you beat the heat and stay happy and healthy in your summer senior living.
1. Practice Sun Safety.
Because older adults don’t adapt to extreme temperatures well, it is best to avoid being outside in the heat for extended periods of time. But if being outdoors is unavoidable, take frequent breaks in shaded or air-conditioned locations and practice sun safety.
With more than 2 million Americans diagnosed with skin cancer every year, sun protection seems like a no-brainer, but plenty of people spend whole days outdoors soaking up the sun.
While a little bit of direct sun, about 15 minutes a day, can be good for senior wellness, prolonged exposure to potent ultraviolet rays (both the deep penetration of UVA and surface-level UVB) can cause the skin to age more rapidly. You may not know it, but more than 90 percent of the visible changes commonly attributed to natural aging are actually caused by overexposure to the sun.
Keep your senior living fresh and healthy by apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 15 SPF whenever you go outdoors. Reapply it every 2 hours for the best coverage.
2. Have the Right Summer Wardrobe.
Clothes that are nonrestrictive and made of lightweight and light-colored fabric offer the best cooling power in high heat.
If you’re stuck in a stuffy room, going outside to catch a breeze can offer much needed relief, but be aware that your lightweight indoor wardrobe may not be the best choice for outdoors.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, clothing is the senior’s first and best line of defense against sun damage. Your light and breezy summer ensembles are perfect for a day indoors fighting summer heat, but research has shown that light-colored, lightweight and loosely-woven fabrics do not offer much protection from the sun.
Darker colored clothing made from a tightly woven or sun-protective fabric like unbleached cotton can provide breathability while still offering coverage. And don’t forget your hat and sunglasses. Skin cancer develops most frequently on the ears, nose, and face. A tightly woven hat with a brim that extends at least three inches can help protect your head. Wraparound sunglasses block the harmful UV rays that can cause cataracts and age the delicate skin around the eyes.
3. Drink Well to Live Well in the Summer Heat.
Staying hydrated can be instrumental in senior wellness this summer when dehydration and heat-related illness are deadly partners for the sun-loving senior.
The body cools itself through perspiration. The aging body, however, loses its ability to acclimate to high temperatures and effectively regulate body cooling. And older adults are subjected to further heat stress when dehydrated. When you’re dehydrated, your body isn’t able to sweat enough to cool down, which can lead to elevated body temperatures and ultimately to heat stroke.
To further complicate matters, certain prescription medicines that otherwise improve senior living but can inhibit perspiration. So to avoid developing a serious heat illness, older adults should drink enough of the right kind of fluids while outdoors.
While it’s always good to drink plenty of water, water alone is not enough to keep you hydrated when you’re perspiring in the extreme heat. The body also needs to replace lost electrolytes.
If you’re spending extended periods outdoors or in a hot building this summer, you should be drinking plenty of electrolyte-filled sports drinks to supplement your regular water consumption. For an extra boost, replace a glass or two of water with fruit juice which also helps replace essential nutrients lost through perspiration.