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The Weather: Wreaking Havoc on Health

The weather forecast may be a strong predictor of how you're going to feel.

Extreme Temperatures Increase Heart Risk continued...

Extreme heat presents a problem too, as having heart disease makes it harder to regulate the body's core temperature. "People forget they have heart disease. All of a sudden, they're sweating profusely and dehydrated," Pollock says, noting factors that can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Old age also predisposes people to heat-related illnesses. "Once you get past 65, the thermoregulatory system has a harder time staying balanced," says meteorologist Scott Sheridan, PhD, associate professor of climatology at Kent State University.

The Chicago heat wave of 1995 bore this out. Of the 465 heat-related deaths that occurred then, more than half of the victims were 75 or older.

Although people with risk factors are most vulnerable to the dangers of extreme temperatures, no one is immune to their effects. Consider Corey Stringer, the 27-year-old NFL All-Pro offensive lineman who died of heat stroke during a practice marked by high heat and humidity.

"The idea that certain groups are more vulnerable than others to weather extremes shouldn't preclude anyone from protecting themselves," warns Sheridan.

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Reviewed on August 11, 2009

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