September 8, 2014

Proof Positive of Weather's Impact on My Health and My Meds

I love living in our nation's capital. But its one serious drawback becomes increasingly problematic as I deal with aging and Parkinson's -- the summer heat and humidity.

Each year, the swelter is harder for me to bear. Scientific studies confirm that the elderly are subject to greater heat stress than younger people.

The Centers for Disease Control report:
  • Elderly people do not adjust as well as younger people to sudden changes in temperature. 
  • Seniors are more likely to have chronic medical conditions that change normal body responses to heat. 
  • Seniors are more likely to take prescription medicines that impair the body's ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration. 
An Exceptionally Nice Summer in DC, until Last Week
I've lived in Washington since 1955. I can't recall a summer as nice as this year's. Then again, I can't recall a lot of things.

But this past week brought us more typical summer weather: temperatures over 90 every day, with humidity -- dew point -- often above 70.This triggered a repeat of the strange experience I've been having for the past several years.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen and Me

When I join the mad dogs and Englishmen in the noonday sun, I often feel suddenly weak and faint. If this happens around the house and I'm able to get inside and check my blood pressure, the systolic reading is often under 100. For someone who's dealt mostly with high blood pressure, this new development is unusual, to say the least.

A Strange Version of Orthostatic Hypotension?
In checking the internet for clues, I found that "orthostatic hypotension" accurately describes these sinking spells. People with Parkinson's are particularly prone (pun intended) to orthostatic hypotension. But the definition suggests it occurs only when you go from a sitting to a standing position.

That's not my issue. I never feel faint when getting up out of a chair. My spells only happen when I'm out in the noonday sun. So far, my research shows I'm sort of unique in this regard.

Two incidents this past week show what happens on good and bad days:
  • On Friday, in the midst of our heat wave, I asked my on-call driver Joey to take me on several quick neighborhood errands. We weren't out for more than half an hour, and most of that time was spent in the air-conditioned comfort of the car or the stores. Yet when we got home, I was so shaky I had to ask Joey to help me up the sidewalk to the house. Inside, I checked my bp -- 94/77. 
  • A thunderstorm came through Saturday night and swept out the heat and humidity. Late Sunday morning -- with delightfully cool and dry weather -- I went to our local farmers market, the Safeway, and CVS. I was gone for nearly two hours, most of it outside. Absolutely no problem with sinking spells. My blood pressure readings were normal. 
Bottom Line
I still don't know what's causing this problem. But we shouldn't have many more hot and humid days this year.

Unless I get some new information, next summer I'll probably use what has helped me the most this year -- downing one of those little packets of salt around 11 o'clock if I know I'm going to be joining the mad dogs and Englishmen in the noonday sun.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your excellent blog. I am a PWP and suffer some of the same problems. Hot day sinking spells is one of them. Salt helps me ,but even more Gummi electrolyte pills (Sundown) really work. Kay