Beat the Heat! – A Senior’s Guide to Reaping The Benefits Of The Sun
By TAMCARE Home Health on May 23rd, 2023
With the weather getting warmer in Kitchener-Waterloo (and praying it stays this warm🤞) we encourage you to go out and enjoy the sun! Outdoor activities have numerous health benefits for all ages and can be especially beneficial for seniors looking for ways to stay active. Whether you’re going out for a hike, enjoying the bird watching at your local park, or spending an afternoon on the Golf course, you should be sure to get out there and enjoy yourself while also being conscious of the effects of the sun on your health.
For an aging individual, dehydration, heat stroke, and skin cancer are just a few of the concerns that require extra precautions in the sun. It is important to keep note of both the positives and negatives of prolonged exposure to sunlight, as well as what you can do to prevent the exacerbation of existing medical conditions. We wouldn’t want to steer you away from enjoying the activities you love, but before going outside, take a look at this article to know what you should be aware of when under the sun so you can reap all the great benefits while avoiding the negative!
1. Benefits Of Sunlight For Seniors
Sunlight stimulates the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation. Increased serotonin levels can help improve mood, reduce symptoms of depression, and promote a sense of well-being. Depressive disorders such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) manifest during the changing seasons, possibly due to less sunlight exposure during the day.
Vitamin D Production
When UVB rays from the sun interact with our skin, it triggers the production of vitamin D. Sunlight is the primary source of vitamin D, a crucial nutrient that supports bone health, enhances immune function, and plays a role in various physiological processes. It is important to ensure you are getting enough vitamins, whether through sunlight exposure, vitamin supplements, or just a healthy and balanced diet.
Improved Joint Mobility
Going outside on a walk, or just staying active is especially important for seniors who may experience joint stiffness or arthritis. Walking helps strengthen the muscles around the joints, providing support and reducing joint pain. Next time, opt for a walk outdoors to reap both the benefits of walking and moderate sunlight exposure.
Exposure to natural light during the day helps regulate our circadian rhythm, the internal body clock that controls sleep-wake cycles. Regular exposure to sunlight can help improve sleep quality and promote better overall sleep patterns.
2. Health Concerns Of Sunlight For Seniors
Exposure to UV radiation from the sun is a major risk factor for skin cancer such as melanoma. Unprotected or excessive exposure to sunlight, especially during peak hours, increases the risk of developing skin cancer later in life from the damage it does to the DNA in our skin cells.
What most people forget is the most important part of going outside – the water bottle! Dehydration can cause a number of problems, such as impaired physical and mental function, fatigue, and increased risk of heatstroke. Be sure to fill up your water bottle before going out and to drink it frequently. This is the best thing you can do to stay healthy under the sun.
Heatstroke or Heat Exhaustion
Heatstroke or Heat Exhaustion is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s core temperature rises to dangerously high levels. It is typically caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures in the sunlight. When in combination with high humidity, and inadequate fluid intake to compensate for fluid loss through sweating, heatstroke is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.
3. Precautions To Take Before Going Out
Apply Sunscreen – And Apply It Frequently!
Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen when going outside for prolonged periods of time. We recommend an SPF of 30 as it blocks 97% of UVB rays, but the higher the better. Apply it generously at least 15 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours or more frequently if swimming or sweating. Don’t forget to cover easily overlooked areas like the ears, back of the neck, and tops of your feet.
Stay In The Shade
You should always try to stay out of direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time, especially during the peak hours between 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. During these hours, the sun’s rays are at their strongest and have a greater potential to cause skin damage such as sunburn. Look for natural shade from trees or create your own shade with umbrellas, hats, or canopies.
Now that we have applied sunscreen to our skin, we need to remember to protect the eyes as well. It isn’t enough to just wear sunscreen, because UV rays from the sunlight can also enter our eyes and over time damage the protein in the eye’s lens, leading to an increased chance of developing cataracts. Protect your eyes from UV radiation by wearing sunglasses that provide 100% UVA and UVB protection. Look for sunglasses labeled as having UV 400 or 100% UV protection.
Check Your Skin
Monitor your skin for any changes to protect yourself against skin cancer, such as new moles, growths, or changes in existing moles. Report any concerns to your healthcare provider, as they can be potential signs of skin damage or skin cancer.
Remember, there are many benefits to getting some fresh air and some sun, but seniors should be especially cautious about staying safe during the hot summer days. We encourage you to get out there with friends or family to enjoy the warmer weather, and we hope you use these tips next time you are out!
If you want to talk to our professional team about a home care plan for your loved one, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.