Getting Too Hot During the Summer Can
Kill You a Year Later
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August 4, 2018

By Susan Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of
Registered Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other
members of our Editorial Board.]

This summer, I made a bad decision. I decided to spend the
summer in Europe, France specifically. France is beautiful and
normally the temperatures are mild. But a feature of the
French summer in some of the lovely "villes" there is a
scorching heat, a phenomenon they call a "canicucle". We call
it simply a heat wave. Heat waves in France can see
temperatures soar into the 90's or higher, day in and day out.
For stretches of time, the night temperatures also stay high,
meaning you can forget about getting any relief by just
flinging open the windows.

French homes, unlike those in the US, do not typically come
with air conditioners. A charming difference, perhaps, but a
potentially deadly one.  

Back in 2003, Europe experienced the worse heat wave since
1540. An estimated 70,000 people died, about 20% (14,802)
of them died in France. One town in France, Auxerre, saw 8
straight days of 104 degree temperatures.

Nowadays, the French are perhaps the most prepared of all
Europeans to combat a heat wave. The television stations
regularly air public service announcements, reminding people
to drink water, to use a spray can of water to cool off the skin
(a terrific idea that should be adopted in the US too by the
way), to not forget to eat, to avoid alcohol and to avoid

The Minister of Health makes daily appearances on news
shows reminding everyone of precautions to take.

I knew that heat waves can kill. But what surprised to learn
that the killing can continue long after the heat wave is over.
In fact, people can die of heat-wave related problems a full
year after the heat wave ends.

This extended risk of dying --- morbidity --- is not generally
known. What are the risks to your health from a single heat

The Left Side of Your Heart Works Harder During a Heat Wave

When you overheat, the heart's left ventricle must pump
harder to send blood to the skin so that you can sweat. If you
are elderly, your left ventricle is already weaker than it was in
your youth. The increased stress it must bear during a heat
wave can push you into cardiac arrest. This is the primary
reason the elderly die during heat waves.

A 2014 study from The Pennsylvania State University
observed that , it's not the heat that kills you, it's your heart:
"Indeed during a heat wave, most of the excess morbidity and
mortality are not directly heat-related, but are cardiovascular
in origin, brought about by the increased cardiovascular
challenge associated with thermoregulatory responses to heat

This is a critical moment in human history. Our planet is
experiencing a gradual rise in temperature that some view as
permanent and others view as a normal fluctuation.
Regardless of your view, right now, we're experiencing an
upswing. As The Pennsylvania State University study noted,
"all 10 of the warmest years on record have occurred within
the last 15 years."

This means that we simply have to educate ourselves about
how to stay cooler, no matter where we live.

Plus, You Don't Sweat as Much as You Age

The sweat glands age. They shrink as you age, leaving you
with fewer effective ones. These sweat glands are your body's
natural air conditioners. Shutting some of them off simply
makes it easier for you to overheat.

You're born with 2 to 5 million sweat glands.
By the way,
contrary to popular opinion,
blacks and whites have about the
same number of sweat glands. But
black skin is better able to
withstand humid heat and white skin is better able to
withstand dry heat, according to a 1992 study from
Laboratoire de Recherches sur les Tumeurs de la Peau
Humaine, Fondation A. de Rothschild, Paris.

Your Blood Pressure Medications May Be Making Heat Stroke

Diuretics and beta blockers reduce the body's ability to
regulate heat, according to a study on the 1995 heat wave.
More than 600 people died during that heat wave.  

Your Health Suffers for at Least A Year After a Heat Wave

A 1998 study found that the adverse effects on your health of
a heat wave lasts at least a year. That study, entitled "Near-
Fatal Heat Stroke during the 1995 Heat Wave in Chicago"
looked at patients admitted to the hospital following the 1995
Chicago heat wave.

Upon admission to the hospital, all of the patients showed
"multiorgan dysfunction with neurologic impairment3.  About
half of the patients showed moderate to severe renal
insufficiency (53%), disseminated intravascular coagulation
(45%), and the acute respiratory distress syndrome (10%).

Almost 60% (57%) of the patients had infections.

A total of  21% of these patients died in the hospital

A year later, although most survivors had regained near
normal kidney and lung function,  33% still had some degree
of organ dysfunction.  Moreover, the chilling fact is that,
during the year following the heat wave, an additional 28% of
the patients had died.

Surviving After a Heat Wave

What this study clearly shows is that experiencing a heat wave
is a lasting threat to your health.

What can you do? The first priority is to remain under a
doctor's care and monitoring.  If you don't have access to
such care, you have to try to monitor your symptoms as best
you can. There are monitors you can buy from pharmacies or
amazon which can help you track blood pressure, blood sugar
levels. You may be able to have blood tests done at your local
free clinic.

Here is a complete list of things you can do to s
tay cooler in
hot weather

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