Health briefs: Risk of heat-related health problems increases with age
Heat-related health problems increases with age
With summer here and the temperatures rising, it is important to understand the health risks that excessive heat can bring and know the signs of heat-related illnesses. Older adults and people with chronic medical conditions are particularly susceptible to hyperthermia and other heat-related illnesses. The National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, offers advice to help combat the dangers of hot weather.
Heat stress, heat fatigue, heat syncope (sudden dizziness after exercising in the heat), heat cramps and heat exhaustion are all forms of hyperthermia. Hyperthermia is caused by a failure of the body’s heat-regulating mechanisms. The risk of hyperthermia can increase with the combination of higher temperatures, underlying general health, and individual lifestyle.
Lifestyle factors that can increase risk include not drinking enough fluids, living in housing without air conditioning, lack of mobility and access to transportation, overdressing, visiting overcrowded places and not understanding how to respond to hot weather conditions. On hot and humid days, especially when an air pollution alert is in effect, older adults, particularly those with chronic medical conditions, should stay indoors in cooler places. If possible, people without air conditioners or fans should go to places that do have air conditioning, such as senior centers, shopping malls, movie theaters and libraries. Cooling centers, which may be set up by local public health agencies, religious groups and social service organizations in many communities, are another option.
If you suspect that someone is suffering from a heat-related illness:
•Call 911 if you suspect heat stroke.
• Get the person out of the heat and into a shady, air-conditioned or other cool place. Urge them to lie down.
• If the person can swallow safely, offer fluids such as water, fruit and vegetable juices, but not alcohol or caffeine.
• Apply a cold, wet cloth to the wrists, neck, armpits, and groin. These are places where blood passes close to the surface of the skin, and the cold cloths can help cool the blood.
• Encourage the individual to shower, bathe or sponge off with cool water if it is safe to do so.
For more on hyperthermia visit nia.nih.gov/health/publication/agepages.
Learn how to protect you and your loved ones during a thunderstorm
The weather forecast calls for a slight chance of thunderstorms, but you can only see a few fluffy white clouds overhead. So you and your tennis partner grab your racquets and balls and head for the tennis court. You spend a few minutes warming up and then—wait! Is that thunder you hear? Was that a lightning flash?
What do you do? Keep playing until the thunder and lightning get closer? Go sit on the metal bench under the trees to see what happens? Or get in your car and drive home?
Correct answer: If no substantial, non-concrete shelter is nearby, get in your car and wait out the storm. Why? Because being outside when lightning is present is not something to take lightly—ever.
To learn more, visit CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health’s “Your Health — Your Environment” blog.
Managing diabetes on vacation
It’s important to take steps to manage diabetes while on vacation and help avoid health problems to focus on the fun stuff. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have created this checklist of important tips that will help.
Pack twice the amount of diabetes supplies you expect to need in case of travel delays.
Take copies of prescriptions with you.
Carry a card in your wallet or pocket that says you have diabetes and notes if you use medicine to treat it.
Take snacks, glucose gel, or glucose tablets with you, as necessary, in case your blood glucose drops.
Keep your health insurance card and emergency phone numbers handy.
Write down your doctor’s name and phone number or save it on your phone.
Make a note of time zone changes and how this will affect when to take your medication.
If flying, pack your diabetes medicines and supplies in your personal carry-on bag.
Wear medical identification that says you have diabetes.
Eating out and trying food in new places is always an exciting part of going on vacation. Make sure to eat healthy foods and try to set aside time for physical activity. Check out the National Diabetes Education Program website for specific tips on how to care for your diabetes while on the road or when traveling by plane. Sign up to get more information about diabetes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NDEP website. Select “Diabetes Education Materials” from the subscription options.
Wellness Wednesday has a new location
Wellness Wednesday is a program for older adults with activities including fitness classes, wellness checks with a nurse, foot care, lunch and guest speakers. The program, hosted by Northwest Colorado Health’s Aging Well program, is held every Wednesday at St. Michael Catholic Church, 678 School Street. There is a $3 suggested donation for fitness classes and senior wellness checks. Foot care is $20 and an appointment is required. Lunch is $3. Donations and fees help ensure this program continues, but no one is turned away from activities due to inability to pay. For more information, call 970-871-7676 or go to northwestcoloradohealth.org/agingwell.
3 tips for Alzheimer’s caregivers
When you are caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important to make your own health a priority. Staying physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy will make you a better caregiver. Here are 3 tips on how to care for yourself while caring for others:
Ask for help. Being able to take regular breaks from caregiving will help reduce stress and burnout.
Get regular exercise. Find activities you enjoy and you’ll be more likely to stick with them. You don’t have to do it alone—partner up with your loved one for short walks or dancing.
Eat healthy foods. Make sure to choose a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
Read the full tip sheet Alzheimer’s Caregiving Tips: Caring for Yourself on the ADEAR website and visit our Alzheimer’s caregiving page for more resources.
Mind Springs Health was dealt a severe blow to its community crisis services this week with the announcement that the state of Colorado would transition away from using the mental health care company effective July 1.