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Elderly Particularly Vulnerable to Dangers of Heat Waves, Independa Chief Medical Officer Warns
Date:8/3/2011

SAN DIEGO, Aug. 3, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- As cities across the United States cope with record-breaking heat waves this summer, it is critical for those who care for the elderly to proactively protect their health, says Dr. Richard Della Penna, Chief Medical Officer of Independa™, Inc. and a leading expert on elder care. He adds that emerging technology makes it easier to take precautions and learn of potential issues.

"The elderly are at greater risk than the general population during extremely hot weather because our bodies don't respond to changes in temperature in the same way as we get older," Della Penna says. "Beyond causing discomfort, sustained heat and humidity are dangerous for older people."

Why Elderly Are Susceptible

Among contributing factors, the elderly don't always feel as warm as younger people do in higher temperatures, and don't necessarily sense thirst. Medical conditions can further diminish elders' ability to cope with heat-related stress, and medications can interfere with their bodies' cooling capabilities, Della Penna adds.

Habits and lifestyles also play a role. Because they chill easily, older adults tend to dress warmly. They may not have air conditioning or fans, and even if they do, those on fixed incomes often hesitate to use these electrical devices. In urban areas, the elderly frequently shut their windows and doors for fear of crime.

"Isolation is certainly a risk factor for older people," Della Penna says. "Many of the people who die during heat waves are elders who live alone and don't have anyone to check on them."

During the hot spell that struck Chicago in July 1995, 371 of the 522 deaths reported involved people age 65 or older. This summer, the National Weather Service attributed as many as 64 deaths to the heat wave in late July as Midwestern, Eastern and Southern states experienced temperatures in the 90s and 100s.

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SOURCE Independa
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