Seniors more sensitive to the heat

June 30, 2012 at 4:32 PM
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NEW YORK, June 30 (UPI) -- The effect of the sun on older adults can be heightened because of changes in the skin and body as one ages, a U.S. physician says.

Dr. Michael Stern, co-director of the Geriatric Emergency Medicine Fellowship at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, said the warning signs for heat-related conditions often go unnoticed, and older adults are at an especially high risk.

"As a person ages, the body's response to higher temperature changes. Compared with a younger person, an older adult may not be able to sense elevations in temperature as quickly or be able to cool down as readily," Stern said in a statement. "In today's society, we are also seeing an increased number of seniors doing vigorous exercise routines, which can become bad for their health if they don't slow down for scorching temperatures."

Older adults can also be at heightened risk because of changes in the skin as one ages.

"You can burn much quicker even with short exposure to the sunlight," Dr. Evelyn Granieri, director of Geriatrics at NewYork-Presbyterian/Allen Hospital, added.

"Heat-related injuries range from minor issues, such as muscle cramps due to loss of water and salt through perspiration, dizziness, clammy skin and rapid heartbeat to heat exhaustion in the form of headaches, nausea and weakness; and finally heat stroke, which can be fatal," Granieri said.

Several medical conditions could increase the risk for heat stroke, including heart disease, high-blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, psychiatric illness and certain medications, Granieri said.

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