Listening to Your Body Can Save Your Life

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The extreme summertime heat can pose potential health problems to almost anyone, but its danger can be magnified for those on certain types of medication. Those who are on certain types of medication may find that the combination of drugs they are taking may impede their body’s natural cooling system.

For those who are particularly active during the summer months, sweat rags are a seasonal necessity during the high-temperature, high-humidity dog days of July. But as unsightly as it may seem, sweat is actually the body’s natural way of maintaining the correct internal temperature. Some medications commonly prescribed to treat diabetes, high blood pressure, sinus congestion or depression can impair the body’s ability to deal with the intense summer heat through a retention of fluids or a constriction of the blood vessels. Infants and senior citizens are usually the first heat casualties, because they lack an adequate internal thermometer. In the case of seniors, medications can exacerbate the problem.

Older people typically do not tolerate dehydration nearly as well. In these conditions, they will often experience vomiting, diarrhea, and difficulty regulating their temperature. Moreover, the combination of an underlying disorder such as diabetes, high blood pressure or a heart condition and its corrective medicine can turn sun exposure into an exercise in dehydration. If someone is a diabetic and she gets dehydrated, her sugar will then go up, causing her kidney function to worsen. In general, diuretics prescribed to eliminate excess salt and water can be dangerous in the summertime when sweating depletes these stores.

Heat and high blood pressure present a dangerous combination: A patient tempted to supplement dietary sodium, for instance, may already be on a salt-restricted diet. In addition to sodium loss, sweating also depletes the body of potassium, a mineral found in food like bananas, papaya and athletic sports drinks, such as Gatorade. Further, beta blockers used to regulate high blood pressure do not allow the small blood vessels in the skin to dilate. A restriction of blood flow to the skin impedes sweat production and causes the body temperature to rise. Also, antihistamines reduce sinus congestion by blocking the function of the autonomic nerves. But, because this group of nerves stimulates the sweat glands, a side effect is reduced sweat production.

In addition to listening to your body, one of the best things to do is to stay indoors in a cooled environment during the hottest hours of the day. In the case of senior citizens who are taking beta blockers or a combination of medications mentioned above, it is definitely advised to speak with your doctor.


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