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RECENT: Extreme heat waves in the US can lead to heart attacks and deaths


Yesterday, my family and I went for a walk around our neighborhood. My sister pointed out drops of some substance falling on us and asked me, "Is it raining?" I looked up and saw thousands of small dust particles landing on our hair and clothes. Little did we know that it all started here.



 

Over 900 wildfires from Canada have made their way to 29 states across the US, affecting nearly 73 million people with poor air quality and record-breaking heat waves. California's Death Valley reached the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth, a whopping 130 degrees F. This intensifying heat wave not only causes us to crank up the ACs led to life-threatening consequences for many.


You may have noticed that these past 8 years have been unbearably hot, the hottest years ever recorded. Anthropogenic, or human-induced climate change, has increased the likelihood of heat waves and other extreme weather events. Little did we know that powering thousands of coal-fired power stations worldwide would lead to such crises (or maybe we just chose to ignore it).


Well, now it is too late for climate change to be ignored because the problem affects our day-to-day life. This surge in temperature is largely human-induced, but this year has been especially challenging due to El Niño, a natural cyclic climate pattern causing warmer water in the Pacific and increases in global temperatures.

There are four heat domes called thermal inversions, that trap hot air over land, hovering over northern Africa and the Atlantic, and southern Asia and the US. Flood warnings encapsulated those 29 states and claimed at least five lives in Pennsylvania, Vermont, and more of New England this past weekend.


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Now, what does this scorching, escalating heat mean for our aging populations and those at cardiovascular risk?


Many demographics are often overlooked, but America's elder population is especially neglected in consideration of these events. According to the CDC, adults over 65 years of age have a very hard time adapting to changes in temperature. This lack of recovery time makes them prone to the onslaught of cardiovascular disease.


Signs of heat stress can start mild and unnoticeable: headaches, dizziness, and exhaustion-- then can abruptly lead to heat stroke, which has a scarily dangerous mortality rate of 50%. Extreme weather events disproportionately impact low-income communities and minority groups due to systemic bias and the design of America's healthcare system.


“Heat is a rapidly growing health risk, due to burgeoning urbanization, an increase in high temperature extremes, and demographic changes in countries with aging populations. Hundreds of thousands of people die from preventable heat-related causes each year.”

The World Meteorological Organization


The key word here is preventable. Thus, community-based interventions are crucial so that populations at risk are not left to deal with these challenges alone. These solutions include heat action plans, accurate risk projections, warning systems, and increased support for those faced with socioeconomic disparities.


As you think about this heat wave affecting many aspects of your daily life, take a minute to think of communities that don't have access to healthcare or even an AC, the way many of us do. What strategies can we employ to provide fair healthcare to minority groups in vulnerability to extreme heat events? Join the discussion, and leave a comment with your thoughts below.


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