We already know it, but the actual numbers can be a little surprising. People who have obtained the age of 60 are the most vulnerable individuals to heat waves. There are 82% to 92% more deaths than in the general population occurring in this age group. There is also a significant increase in the risk factors for heat-related illness or injury – such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion and heat cramps in people with obesity, heart disease, diabetes and respiratory conditions (all common side effects for men undergoing hormone therapy) as these decreases the body’s ability to adapt to temperature changes. A review in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) describes the effect of heat on human physiology and factors that increase the risk of heat stress.

Laboratory-based physiologic studies have clearly demonstrated that the ability to detect heat is reduced, and the physiological response to heat with adequate blood distribution and sweating to cool the body is slower in older individuals compared to younger people. Their ability to respond to thirst is also delayed and they take longer to recover from dehydration. Individuals who also suffer with obesity, heart disease, diabetes and respiratory conditions as compared to otherwise healthy older individuals are even less able to deal with heat.

Since most of us are in the older age group and we also dealing with the trials and tribulations of prostate cancer treatment (as well as the increased risk for obesity, heart disease, diabetes and respiratory conditions from the prostate cancer treatments) we need to be even more careful and vigilant when it becomes hot outside. If possible, stay inside an air conditioned space and drink large amounts of water throughout the day.

Joel T Nowak MA, MSW