The mercury is in the high 80s around the country this July; some folks may even see a steamy 90 degrees. When it’s this hot outside, it’s best to proceed with caution, even if you’re just running errands and going about your day, advise experts at the National Institutes of Health.
You need to be extra cautious if you are planning to work out in the heat, have a health problem or are a senior adult. Here’s how to know if you’re in trouble and how to stay calm and cool.
1. Know the signs of trouble: Hyperthermia is the name of a group of illnesses caused by overexposure to heat — indoors or out. The moderate symptoms include cramps, chills (while in a hot environment) and heat exhaustion, but these can also be signs that a person is in danger of developing a life-threatening condition called heat stroke.
During heat stroke, a person’s body temperature may rise above 104 degrees. The heart may begin to race as it works to cool the body and the person will stop sweating. Nausea,
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fainting and flushed skin may also occur. If it does, call 911, get the person out of the heat immediately and try to cool his or her body.
2. Exercise caution. No matter how fit you are, your body and your heart work much harder in the heat. Whether you are hiking, running, race-walking or boating, be sure to:
•Wait for the coolest part of the day. If it’s an extremely hot day, workout inside in an air-conditioned space or wait until another day.
•Wear light clothing that breathes and helps your body stay cool, as well as a hat for protection from the sun.
•Stay hydrated. You may need to drink more than you normally do during your workout to compensate for higher temperatures.
•Stop if you feel the least bit light-headed or faint. Even if you’re in great shape, never “push through” an extreme workout in the heat.
3. Protect the most vulnerable. Children, the elderly, and people with chronic illnesses can develop heat-related illnesses much quicker than a healthy adult. To help:
•Follow these guidelines for children. They experience the same symptoms of heat illness as adults, but the process is much faster because of their smaller body size. To begin with, never leave children inside a hot car and never allow them to become dehydrated.
•Keep watch on the elderly. The National Institute on Aging offers advice tailored for seniors. One important tip to remember is that aging skin does not cool the body as efficiently as younger skin, so seniors should limit their exposure to extreme heat.
These conditions also raise health risks in the heat:
•Being overweight or severely underweight.
•Having any heart, lung or kidney disease or any illness that causes weakness or fever.
•Being on a salt-restricted diet or taking medications that reduce perspiration, such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers and some heart and blood pressure drugs.
•Not having access to air-conditioning on extremely hot days. In this case, a person should go to a public-cooling center (all cities and towns have emergency cooling centers during heat waves) rather than stay inside a hot home.