Elderly Diabetics In Greater Danger from Heat

We often hear it’s the humidity not just the heat that makes high temperatures so uncomfortable and it’s true.  When the air is thick with moisture, sweat doesn’t evaporate to help cool your body and diabetics in particular, who may suffer from poorly functioning sweat glads, can be at increased risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 25 per cent of seniors over the age of 65 or 11.8 million seniors have diabetes and it remains the 7th leading cause of  death in the United States.

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can result in complications including damage to blood vessels and nerves.  People with diabetes also become dehydrated more quickly which can raise blood sugar.  High temperatures can also affect how the body uses insulin and as a result, diabetics may need to test their blood sugar more often during warm months and adjust their insulin dose according to what they eat and drink.

Seniors are already more susceptible to heat and dehydration and older adults with diabetes, as well as caregivers, should pay attention not only to the temperature during the hottest days of summer, but also the heat index, which combines humidity and temperature.

Heading to the beach?  In addition to keeping well hydrated and bringing along a sun shade, diabetics should also store medication and equipment in a cooler but not in direct contact with ice or a freezer pack.   Older adults should drink plenty of water on hot days, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, which can lead to further loss of water and spike blood sugar levels.

With a greater threat of thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes in the warm weather, diabetics should also have a plan for storing medication that needs to be refrigerated and have a medical supply bag ready to go in case of emergency. If a senior in your life has diabetes, check on them during extreme heat or in the event of a power outage.

To learn more about how heat affects diabetes visit the Mayo Clinic website at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/expert-blog/heat-and-diabetes/BGP-20056563 .