Older adults may already know that hot summer temperatures can create health risks like sunburn and heatstroke. But can the humidity also be dangerous?
Research shows that high humidity, especially when combined with high temperatures, may create cardiovascular risks. Specifically, humidity may have an effect on adults with high blood pressure. Here’s what you should know and how seniors can protect themselves.
How Humidity Can Affect Adult with High Blood Pressure
The greatest risks are when the temperature is above 70 degrees F and the humidity is more than 70 percent. Higher humidity means that there is more moisture in the air, which can interfere with the body’s ability to sweat and cool off.
Blood pressure specifically may be affected in summer weather because of the body’s attempts to radiate heat. High temperatures coupled with high humidity cause more blood flow to the skin, which may require the heart to beat faster and harder. In fact, the body may circulate twice as much blood per minute compared to a cool day.
Heat and sweating can also lower the amount of fluid in the body, which can reduce blood volume and lead to dehydration. This may create strain on the heart.
Risk Factors Vulnerable to Humidity
Although anyone can be impacted by heat and humidity without protection, some people are at higher risk. Individuals over the age of 50, those who are overweight, or those who have heart, lung, or kidney conditions may be more affected by humidity.
Other risk factors may include poor circulation, low-sodium diets, alcohol use, and taking certain medications, such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, or blood-pressure medication.
Warning Signs of Stress From Heat and Humidity
The following symptoms, whether they apply to yourself or a loved one, require immediate action against heat stress:
- Excessive sweating or inability to sweat
- Muscle spasms or cramps
- Cold and clammy skin
- Swollen ankles and feet
- Dark urine
- Dizziness or confusion
- Rapid pulse
If you think you may be experiencing heat stress, move to a cooler, air-conditioned, or shaded area and drink plenty of fluids. You may also want to take a cool shower or bath and lie down.
If the symptoms don’t improve, seek medical help immediately.
Take Precautions Against Humidity
Many of the risk factors that make people more vulnerable to humidity are unavoidable. Fortunately, there are also many options to help protect them.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water (even when you don’t feel thirsty).
- Avoid sugary or alcoholic drinks on very hot and humid days.
- If you spend a lot of time outside, take frequent breaks in the shade or air conditioning.
- Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing made of breathable fabrics.
- Wear properly fitted, well-ventilated shoes and socks that repel sweat.
- Avoid spending too much time outside when the sun and heat are strongest, usually 12pm to 3pm.
Safe, Appropriate Care in All Seasons
Heritage Senior Communities has 15 locations throughout Michigan and northern Indiana, providing a variety of options for your loved one’s specific, unique situation. Schedule a tour by contacting us today!