Rising Temperatures and Brain Health:
10 Ways to Stay Safe in the Heat
Hardly a day passes without a worrying story on the news about wildfires, droughts, or mercury-busting temperatures affecting people across the globe on an unprecedented scale.
While most of us are aware of the summer risks of dehydration, heat exhaustion, and skin cancer, brain health often goes unnoticed as a negative side effect of our warming planet. Heat exposure can devastate the human brain and have potentially damaging long-term effects.
It is crucial to understand the effects of hot weather on the body and know how to protect oneself during the peak summer months. This article will explore some practical tips to help you stay safe in the heat.
Effects of Heat Waves
In a heat wave, the brain changes because of the higher temperatures. Recent studies have shown that our globally rising temperatures can lead to cognitive impairments such as difficulties in decision-making and memory.
Hyperthermia, or heat sickness, can cause a range of symptoms including fatigue, difficulty concentrating, migraines, seizures, stroke, and even certain forms of dementia. And as temperatures continue to rise, so does the incidence of hyperthermia. Older adults may be particularly susceptible to its detrimental effects.
Dehydration and heat-related conditions can disrupt the blood flow that supplies essential nutrition and oxygen to our brains.
Furthermore, the inflammation caused by heat stress can contribute to cognitive decline, increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, and worsen mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
Extreme Heat Exposure
With global temperatures increasing in recent years, avoiding extreme heat exposure and keeping cool during summer is more vital than ever. Taking the correct precautions, especially during unusually hot periods or heat waves, will reduce the risk of heat-related conditions including migraines, seizures, stroke, and some forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Following some essential but simple tips can protect brain health during hot spells and heat waves:
10 Ways to Stay Safe in the Heat
- Stay Hydrated – As temperatures soar, keeping your body hydrated is crucial. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Opt for water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables to replenish electrolytes and prevent dehydration.
- Dress Right – Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing made from breathable materials to stay cool in hot weather. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection.
- Find the Shade – When the heat becomes intense, find shade to take a break from direct sunlight. Whether outdoors or indoors, staying in the shade helps lower your body temperature and reduces the risk of heat-related illnesses. Even carrying an umbrella on a sunny day can help beat the heat.
- Take it Easy Outdoors – During peak heat hours, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., try to avoid strenuous outdoor activities. If you need to exercise or work outside, do so during the cooler morning or evening hours when the sun is less harsh than mid-day.
- Cool Down Effectively – Use cooling methods like cool showers, damp towels, or fans to lower your body temperature. If you can’t cool down in an air-conditioned area, at least ensure you have a well-ventilated space to prevent overheating.
- Eat Healthy – Boost your brain’s function by eating healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins, like the foods found in the MIND diet.
Foods rich in nutrients support brain health and may even prevent age-related cognitive decline.
- Brain Exercise – Stimulate your brain regularly with puzzles, games, or activities that require critical thinking and problem-solving. It’s important to keep your mind active to maintain cognitive function, especially during extreme heat.
- Be Prepared – Prepare for upcoming heat waves by keeping an eye on weather forecasts and heat advisories. You should take precautions and protect your brain health in extreme temperatures by planning ahead.
- Screen Time – Too much exposure to electronic devices like smartphones and computers isn’t good during extreme heat. Mental fatigue from excessive screen time may be exacerbated by heat and the effects of excessive screen time on your body.
- Sleep Well – Healthy brains require restful sleep. Create a cool and comfortable sleeping environment to ensure you get enough quality sleep during hot nights (and during the days if you are a napper).
Rising Temperatures and Brain Health
While everyone is aware of the potential consequences of rising temperatures on our ecosystem, many of us don’t recognize the impact extreme heat can have on our brain health. Understanding the risks associated with extreme heat and climate change is not only vital for preserving our planet but also for safeguarding our own overall health, including our brain health.
Aviv’s unique medical program combines hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) with cognitive training, fitness training, and nutrition coaching to help improve the quality of life for people interested in healthy aging and those wanting to keep their brains sharp for as long as possible.
Contact Aviv Clinic to learn more about the Aviv Medical Program and how it can help improve your cognitive and physical performance.