It’s Summer and the Heat Is On

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Many of us, especially those out west, have endured a long, cold, snowy winter. Now we’re looking forward to a long warm summer. It looks like we’re going to get just that. The forecasted El Niño has settled in and is forecasted to bring us unseasonably high temperatures. It’s important to pay attention to the impact high temperatures have on seniors, especially when it comes to our hearts. I have some summer heart health tips to share that should help us get through this sinister El Niño, but first some information on what’s happening in Washington.

As you likely already know, the Debt Ceiling bill was signed into law with hours to spare, so our country avoided causing a financial disaster by defaulting on its bills. It just seems crazy to me that we must go through this wild process to pay our country’s bills when it’s not a matter of whether we have the money or not but mostly a result of politics.

The FDA has done some very positive things the past few weeks that could have a big impact on our healthcare going forward. An FDA advisory panel voted 6 to 0 in favor of fully approving Eisai and Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug Leqembi (lecanemab), which first won an accelerated approval in January. The FDA usually, but not every time, follows the recommendation of these advisory panels. As you may remember, there was some controversy concerning another of Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drugs, Aduhelm. The FDA approved the drug, against the recommendation of another advisory panel, but the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said it would only pay for the drug if the patients enrolled in “qualifying” clinical trials, which would need to meet specific criteria set by CMS. Full approval of this new drug gives hope to Alzheimer’s sufferers who haven’t had a new drug approved for the disease for decades. My hope is that the broader use of these plaque reducing drugs will prove their use and maybe even uncover some information that will advance the science of understanding how Alzheimer’s works and how it can be treated and maybe even cured.

The FDA recently approved a vaccine for RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, ensuring its availability this fall for adults age 60 and older. Until recently, I didn’t really know about RSV. It seems most mothers know about it because it affects young children, but RSV also has a big impact on older adults. It causes as many as 10,000 deaths and 160,000 hospitalizations among older adults each year. The newly approved vaccine performed well in published trials. It was 94% effective at lowering the risk of severe illness in adults over age 60 and 83% effective at reducing symptomatic infection. This approval is a big win for seniors, giving us another weapon in our arsenal to combat these harmful viruses. It’s also a big win for our nation’s healthcare system – this vaccine will lower healthcare costs. Reducing severe RSV cases means fewer hospitalizations and less need for advanced medical intervention.

There are quite a few healthcare issues that are being discussed in Washington. We’ll work hard to keep you up to date on all of them. In fact, we’re holding another Facebook live event on June 15th at 2:00 pm ET to discuss some of these issues. See below for more information.

Now, back to summer. Hot weather can have a detrimental effect on the heart health of older adults, especially if they have some other health problems. While I have stressed   the importance of physical activity in previous blogs, we need to recognize the possible impact of hotter weather and plan accordingly, especially when it comes to our heart. Here are some tips for keeping heart healthy this summer.

  • Keep hydrated – This is advice we’ve heard over and over, that’s because it is important. Proper hydration reduces the heart’s workload.
  • Avoid the hottest parts of the day – It makes sense but requires some focus on scheduling. 
  • Keep to an exercise routine (but with modifications) – Don’t quit exercising but plan (see above). 
  • Wear cool clothing – Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing and a wide-brimmed hat (looking good isn’t as Important as keeping cool).
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet – This isn’t just for summer, we ought to do this year-round. 
  • Maintain medication regimens – This is always important, but did you know that antifungals and antibiotics can increase sunlight sensitivity. Diuretics and antihypertensives, meanwhile, can heighten sensitivity to ordinary dehydration and sun exposure. Check this out for your medication. 
  • Learn the symptoms of heat-related cardiovascular events – Recognizing symptoms can reduce lag time in getting appropriate, potentially life-saving medical attention. According to the Harvard Medical School, the most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain, usually described as crushing, squeezing, pressing, heavy, stabbing, or burning. The pain or feeling tends to be focused either in the center of the chest or just below the center of the rib cage, but it can spread to the arms, abdomen, neck, lower jaw, or neck. Other symptoms can include sudden weakness, sweating, nausea, vomiting, breathlessness, or lightheadedness. Don’t hesitate in getting medical help if you have any suspicion of a heart attack. Time is of the essence.

Most of these recommendations fall into the commonsense category. It’s up to each of us to pay attention and do what’s necessary to protect ourselves during the hot weather.

As I mentioned above, we’re hosting a Facebook Live event on June 15 at 2:00 PM ET. I’ll be hosting RetireSafe’s President and CEO Mark Gibbons to discuss this year’s legislative policies and their impact on seniors’ access to healthcare. We’ll also be using this time to share results from our recent healthcare survey and dive into why it’s crucial to preserve Medicare coverage for seniors. We’d love for you to give us your opinion by taking the survey – take it here.

You can find the Facebook live event details by clicking here. Go ahead and mark yourself as “going” on the event page if you plan to tune in. We look forward to seeing you then!

Best, Thair

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