By Joan Koczor
Older adults need to be extra careful of overheating and heat stroke. As we age, our bodies cannot adjust to high temperatures as well.
Our sense of thirst decreases, which can cause seniors to not realize they are thirsty and face the dangers of dehydration. Common medications, such as those for blood pressure, flush water from the body. Diuretics or low-salt diets could also affect the way your body regulates temperature. Side effects from some medications can cause excessive sweating and diarrhea.
A daily intake of about six 8-ounce glasses of water is about average. Medications you are taking are also a consideration, so talk to your doctor about how much water you should be drinking each day.
A few simple steps can make a difference in how you handle these excessive temperatures.
Schedule a checkup for your home or car air conditioner – make sure both are running properly.
Keep the shades/blinds closed during the hottest part of the day. Eat light, cold meals like salads and chicken.
Drink plenty of cool water throughout the day. A body that is hydrated feels cooler and can regulate temperatures better. Lessen your caffeine intake. Take a cool shower. Put a cold cloth on the back of your neck. Wear loose-fitting clothing. Fans help circulate the air and can make an air-conditioned house feel cooler. Freeze plastic bottles of water, take one with you when you go outside. As the ice melts, you will have a supply of cold water.
Visit a shopping mall, library or coffee shop. Go see a movie.
Drinking enough water every day is one of the smartest, simplest ways to keep the body functioning properly. Be aware of the signs of dehydration – dry mouth/skin, lightheadedness, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat – and use these tips to keep cool throughout the summer. And don’t forget to take that water bottle wherever you go.
Remember, pets also need to be protected from dehydration and many heat-related illnesses.
Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee.
This column appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.