How Humidity Can Impact Blood Pressure

Sunrise Senior Living  |  July 3, 2019
How Humidity Can Impact Blood Pressure
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It’s no secret that weather can trigger a flare-up of some health conditions. Osteoarthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are two examples. But some people aren’t aware of one danger associated with weather: the impact of high humidity on blood pressure.

Research shows that high humidity can present serious health risks for people with high blood pressure and heart disease. That’s why it’s important for caregivers to learn the warning signs of heat-related illness, along with steps to prevent it.

High Humidity and High Blood Pressure

Humidity is a measurement of how much moisture is in the air. Health experts say a senior’s risk begins to rise when the temperature outside is over 70 degrees and the humidity is at 70 percent or greater.

When it’s hot and humid outside, the heart has to work much harder. The body may need to circulate twice as much blood per minute as it does on an average day.

Despite how heavily you might sweat, high humidity makes it difficult to cool down. Excessive sweating increases a senior’s risk for dehydration because it lowers the amount of fluid in the body. The result is greater strain on the heart. That’s especially dangerous for a senior who lives with high blood pressure or heart disease.

12 Heat-Related Warning Signs Caregivers Should Recognize

If you are the caregiver for a senior loved one, it’s important to be able to recognize the warning signs of heat and humidity-related illnesses.

  1. Headache
  2. Lethargy
  3. Confusion
  4. Dizziness
  5. Rapid pulse
  6. Fatigue
  7. Nausea
  8. Excessive sweating
  9. Inability to sweat
  10. Cold, clammy skin
  11. Muscle cramps
  12. Swelling in hands or feet

If your loved one is exhibiting a few of these symptoms, don’t wait to seek medical assistance. That often means calling 911.

4 Steps to Prevent a Humidity-Related Health Crisis

Here are a few ways you might be able to help a senior avoid a heat or humidity-related illness:

  1. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water. Experts say eight glasses is a must, even more if you are sweating. Consuming foods with a high water content, such as berries, tomatoes, cucumber, melon, celery, and leafy greens, boosts hydration, too.
  2. Avoid midday heat: By staying indoors during the hottest times of day, a senior can lower their risk for a heat-related crisis. This is typically between noon and 4:00 p.m. Whenever possible, schedule errands and outdoor tasks for early morning or evening.
  3. Cover up: While it might seem counterintuitive, wearing a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt made of a natural fiber offers protection on hot days. Also, investing in a hat with a brim wide enough to shield the face helps.
  4. Eat right: You can also lower your risk by making smart food and drink choices. Avoiding alcohol and caffeine helps. They act as a diuretic on the body, which increases the risk of dehydration and a heat-related health crisis.

If you are struggling to gain the cooperation of an older adult in your life when it comes to heat and humidity risks, we have some suggestions you might find helpful. Read Having a "Heat Intervention" With a Senior to learn more.

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