Alert
Close

Join us at AARP's 2015 Life@50+ National Event and Expo in sunny Miami.  Learn more

HIGHLIGHTS

Open
America's Winter Escapes Sweepstakes
Introducing RealPad by AARP
You and Your Town Contest-You could win an AARP RealPad

AUTO BUYING PROGRAM

AARP Auto Buying Program

Download the ipad App

AARP-iPad-ePub-app

DRIVER SAFETY

Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

Contests and
Sweeps

Safe Driving in 2014 Sweepstakes

Learn how AARP Driver Safety can help you stay safe—and enter for a chance to win $1,000. See official rules. 

KEEP BRAIN ACTIVE!

AARP Games - Play Now!

AARP BOOKS

Planning for Long-Term Care for Dummies

Get expert advice on planning for your own or a relative’s future care needs.

Webinars

Learn From the Experts

Sign up now for an upcoming webinar or find materials from a past session.

Learning centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.

 

Arthritis

Heart Disease

Diabetes

Most Popular

Viewed

Heat Wave Threatens Older Americans

Who’s at risk and how to protect yourself

En español | It's astonishing but true: More Americans die each year from extreme heat than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined. And yet unlike those natural disasters, heat-related deaths are completely preventable.

Sign up for AARP's Health Newsletter.

With excessive heat warnings in effect this week for more than 30 states, health officials fear that susceptible older Americans may be at risk for illness or death. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 40 percent of heat-related deaths occur in those 65 and older, and men account for two-thirds of these deaths in all age groups.

This week’s blistering triple-digit weather has put about 141 million people across the country under heat advisories and warnings. As many as 22 possible heat-related deaths already have been reported, including a 69-year-old Blackwell, Okla., man who died from hyperthermia after mowing a lawn.

As the experts at the CDC point out, air conditioning is the number one protection against the dangers of extreme heat. Yet sometimes those most vulnerable — people 65 and older, children, those who are overweight or have medical conditions — don’t have access to air conditioning or can’t afford it.

Heat and heart health

The extreme heat is particularly dangerous for those 65 and older for a number of reasons: Their bodies don’t adjust as well to extremes in temperature, and they are more likely to have a chronic medical condition or to be taking prescription medicines that affect the body’s ability to cool itself, says Colleen Keller, director of the Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence at Arizona State University.

Diuretics and some heart medications, in particular, can affect how well a person’s body responds to the heat, she says.

summer heat

To avoid heat-related illness, stay indoors during the hottest times of the day and seek air-conditioning. — Photo by Peter Holst/Getty Images

In fact, cardiovascular problems play the biggest role in heat-related deaths, according to CDC records. Of the 3,442 deaths from extreme heat between 1999 and 2003, cardiovascular disease was recorded as the underlying cause of death in nearly 60 percent of the cases.

People suffer from heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to cool down sufficiently. Although sweating normally helps the body cool, during extremely hot weather that’s sometimes not enough, especially if the person is dehydrated, overweight or suffering from other health problems.

If a person can’t get to an air-conditioned place to cool down and drink fluids, the body’s temperature will begin to rise, similar to having a high fever. If it reaches 103 degrees or higher, death or permanent damage to the brain and other organs can result.

Next: Tips for how to beat the heat. >>

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Grandson (8-9) whispering to grandfather, close-up

Members can save 20% on hearing aids with the AARP® Hearing Care Program provided by HearUSA.

AARP/Walgreens Wellness Bus Stops in Clarksdale, MS

Members can get exclusive points offers from Walgreens and Duane Reade.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points