7 Strategies to Beat the Heat


Older Adults in Heat WaveThe heat waves keep coming and there's no end in site! Unfortunately, older adults are particularly vulnerable to the heat with over 80% of deaths related to heat occurring to those over the age of 60.

Natural physical decline, reduced capacity of the body to counter the heat (harder to sweat) and the existence of chronic conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and diabetes increase the risks for heat related illness among older adults.

So if you find yourself panting, shvitzing

With that in mind, we thought it might be helpful to list a few of the practical things you can do to keep it cool.

1. No Central Air Conditioning, No Problem

If you don't have central air conditioning, see if you can get a window air conditioning unit and place it in your bedroom. While it may not be able to cool off your entire home, at least it will give a refuge from the heat in one bedroom and allow for comfortable sleeps. Air conditioning units can be difficult to install, so see if you can hire someone to do it for you avoiding unnecessary injury.

2. Fanatic for Fans

If air conditioning is not an option, get a series of standing fans and place them in the rooms you use most, likely your bedroom, TV room and kitchen. Fans are effective for older adults in moderate heat. Don't try fanning yourself manually, as the effort in doing so outweighs any cooling benefit. It should be noted, fans have been shown to be less effective for older adults once temperatures reach 33 degrees Celsius.

3. Time to Take a Break and Chill

If it's really hot outside, shift outdoor activities to cooler the cooler hours of the day or avoid outdoor activities altogether. There's no need to be a hero and push yourself and there's plenty of ways to keep busy at home! If you don't have access to a car, and you need necessities like groceries or medications, see if you can have them delivered. Or make the exception and instead of walking take an Uber or taxi.

4. Let Some Cool Water do its Work

Feeling hot and sweaty? Take a cool shower or bath. It doesn't and shouldn't be frigid or shocking. But a cool shower or bath is very effective in lowering your body temperature. Start off lukewarm and slowly add cold water until it's comfortable and you start feeling relief.

5. Drink Right, Eat Right

Stay hydrated. This can mean drinking more often than usual. It can be water, juice or milk. Milk, if your stomach can tolerate it, has actually been shown to be one of the more effective drinks because it has sugar and sodium (like Gatorade), which you tend to need more of in the heat. Eating more hydrating fruits like watermelon, honeydew or cantaloupe and blueberries. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, as they both act as diuretics, which accentuates dehydration.

6. Extra Precautions

If you're feeling a little vulnerable in a heat wave, be more vigilant and take some extra precautions. Carry a water bottle with you. Make sure to bring your medications with you, especially heart, asthma and diabetes. Wear a wide brimmed hat. Wear sun screen. Make sure to bring your phone or a mobile medical alert device, in case you do have a heat related emergency, feel unwell or need help.

7. When All Else Fails

If your home is just too hot, find an alternative. Spend some time in an air conditioned mall. Go to an air conditioned public library and relax with a book, newspaper, magazine or Ipad. Go to your air conditioned community centre or church. Grab a coffee at Starbucks. Stay at a friend or family members home. Don't be afraid to ask for help.