Submitted by Patty Jones, RSVP volunteer coordinator
The heat is on -- and it can be downright dangerous.
When temperatures soar as it has lately, so does the risk of a heat-related illness. Although anybody can experience health problems from high heat, older adults are especially vulnerable.
According to the National Institute on Aging, most of the people who die from heatstroke each year are older than 50. Trust me, that's not that old.
Why does heat hit us so hard? Part of the answer lies in the normal aging process. As we age, blood circulation (which helps cool the body) slows, and sweat glands become less efficient.
Also, a long list of medical conditions that often affect older adults -- including heart and kidney disease, diabetes and high blood pressure -- can increase susceptibility to heat-related illness.
Furthermore, the drugs used to treat those medical conditions can interfere with the ability to perspire, making seniors even more sensitive to the heat.
Now that the heat index is so high, follow these suggestions for keeping cool from national experts on aging and health:
* Draw shades to minimize sunlight.
* If you have an air conditioner, use it as often as you can. Set the temperature no higher than 80 degrees. Low-income seniors should check with their utility companies or the Energy Assistance office at 653-4017 to find out if they qualify for help on their electric bills.
* If you don't own an air conditioner, open windows on different sides of your home to allow for cross-ventilation. A fan set in an open window to exhaust warm air provides more relief than a fan in the middle of a closed, hot room where it will re-circulate hot air. For extra relief from the heat, apply cool compresses when you sit near a fan. If the heat makes you feel ill and you cannot run an air conditioner, consider staying with someone who can or calling for someone to take you to an air-conditioned mall, library or movie theater.
* Because heat can rob your body of water, drink plenty of liquids. This is especially important if you take a diuretic, a medication designed to rid the body of excess fluids. Avoid alcohol and beverages with caffeine; they make your body lose fluid. Instead, fill your glass with water or fruit or vegetable juice.
* Eat cool, light meals, such as salads. Avoid turning on your stove -- cooking a hot meal only adds more heat to your home.
* Schedule necessary outdoor activities for early morning or early evening when temperatures are cooler.
* Adopt a buddy system. "If you are alone, you should have a 'buddy' -- a friend, neighbor or relative" who calls or visits regularly to make sure you're OK, says Ted Bobrow, speaking for the American Association of Retired Persons. A buddy can truly be a lifesaver, he says. If you are interested in receiving daily phone calls, contact the Service Action Network at 653-3011 to get information about the At-Home Connections program.
A few specific needs in Putnam County are:
* Putnam County Nutrition Site is still looking for kitchen help on Fridays.
* RSVP Recycling Center on Keightly Road needs help processing cans on Wednesdays or Saturdays from 9 a.m. until noon.
If you are interested in helping out with any of these needs, contact the Service Action Network Office at 653-3011 and leave a message for Patty.
Are you 55 or older? Are you interested in making your community a better place? Call the Service Action Network of RSVP at 653-3011 to find out how to volunteer your way.