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Are Summer Temps a Risk to Seniors?

Dana Larsen
By Dana LarsenAugust 20, 2018

Last Updated: August 20, 2018

Summer and warmer weather are usually celebrated, but it’s important to keep in mind that summer temperatures are also linked to an increase in heat stroke in elderly seniors.

Learn more about how to prevent heat exhaustion in our parents and senior loved ones.

Heat Stroke: A Risk to Elders

Are summer temps a risk to seniors? We’re not talking about extremes here. We’re talking about slight increases in temperature that can cause elderly heat stress.

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Harvard School of Public Health study found that even a 1 degree Celsius increase, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, in temperature during the summer can increase death rates for elderly people who have a chronic health condition.

The study included health data from 1985-2006 for 3.7 million senior citizens, aged 65+, who possessed some form of chronic illness. The seniors lived in 135 different cities across the U.S.

Antonella Zanobetti, a senior research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard, said: “The effect of temperature patterns on long-term mortality has not been clear to this point. We found that independent of heat waves, high day to day variability in summer temperatures shortens life expectancy.”

She adds:

“This variability can be harmful for susceptible people.”

How Temperature Fluctuation Creates More Heat Intolerance

The study shows that people generally adapt to temperatures in their city, even in places with higher temperatures, like Miami.

It’s the cities that have a “larger temperature swing” that are a risk to seniors.

Heat stress increases the death risk for seniors suffering from these conditions:

  • Chronic Lung Disease: Death risk increased by 3.7%
  • Diabetes: Death risk increased by 4%
  • Heart Attack Sufferers: Death risk increased by 3.8%
  • Heart Failure Sufferers: Death risk increased by 2.8%
Researchers also found mortality for those over age 65 increases in impoverished areas and decreases 1-2% in cities that have more green areas.

Preparation for Elderly Heat Stroke

An aging baby boomer population — and the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions such as diabetes — means that this public health issue will likely become a larger concern in the future as summer temperatures continue to rise.

Learn more from this video on how to prevent heat stroke in the elderly:

Have you found summer temperatures to be a risk to seniors? What steps did you take to cool the body and prevent heat stroke? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.

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