Good morning, this is your Wellness Wake Up Call with Kristin Bogdonas, nutrition, and wellness educator for University of Illinois Extension, serving Rock Island, Henry, Mercer, and Stark Counties.
Last month, we discussed ideas on how to keep kids safe during summer months to avoid heat-related illnesses. Today, I’d like to stick with this theme and share tips for our older adults as well. Why? Because extreme weather events, like heat waves, are on the rise and research suggests that older adults are especially vulnerable to the health effects of these events.
First, let’s discuss a bit about potential effects of medications. If you are taking medications, please be aware of any heat-related warnings.
According to a report by the CDC, 83% of U.S. adults in their 60s and 70s had used at least one prescription drug in the previous 30 days and about one-third used five or more prescription drugs.
Some medications increase your risk for heat-related illness because they may interfere with body temperature regulation, suppress your sense of thirst, or disrupt your fluid balance making you more susceptible to dehydration.
Several classes of drugs associated with heat-related hospitalizations include:
- ACE inhibitors
- anticholinergic medications
- loop diuretics
For example, anticholinergics decrease how much you sweat, which can cause your body temperature to rise. While taking one of these drugs, be extra careful not to become overheated during:
- hot baths
- hot weather
Decreased sweating can put you at risk of heat stroke.
If you’re concerned about a medication you may be taking and its effects during extreme heat, please speak with your doctor. Adjusting medications is complex and must be made by patients guided by their health care providers.
Secondly, adults age 65+ have less water in their bodies than younger adults and children and may not feel the need to drink water until it’s too late.
The reduction in thirst that comes with age can keep that already low supply from being replenished. By the time an older adult feels thirsty, that’s an indication of early dehydration. A simple solution is to carry a reusable water bottle and take frequent sips throughout the day.
- Men should aim for 13 cups/day (3.0L)
- Women should aim for 9 cups/day (2.7L)
Dehydration is when the body “dries out” because of drinking too little fluid, losing too much fluid, or both. It can occur quickly in older adults and may lead to serious health conditions.
You may be dehydrated if you experience:
- dark colored urine
- Flushed skin
- Muscle cramps
- dry mouth or coated tongue
- dry skin
- dizziness or lightheadedness after standing up
- constipation or small and hard stools
- frequent urinary tract infection
- fast heart rate
- dry eyes
And lastly, pay attention to electrolytes. These substances are promoted during exercise and extreme heat and are often added to sports drinks. They help maintain the fluid balance inside and outside your cells, they regulate chemical reactions and much more. Electrolytes are found in foods and drinks with a natural positive or negative electrical charge when dissolved in water.
They include: Sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphate and bicardonate.
Your kidneys filter excess electrolytes out of your body and into your urine. You also lose electrolytes when you sweat. Too much or too little of any of these can cause problems. If you suspect an imbalance, you can ask your healthcare provider to order an electrolyte panel. Taking charge of your electrolytes can help you avoid future health concerns.
Thank you for listening! This has been Kristin Bogdonas, nutrition & wellness educator for University of Illinois Extension, serving Rock Island, Henry, Mercer, and Stark Counties.
Wellness Wake Up Call is produced by WVIK in partnership with University of Illinois Extension, and sponsored by The Planning Center in Moline, assisting men and women with financial wellness and preparation for life’s transitions, including retirement planning, college savings, marital changes, and estate planning.