How Does Heat Stress Affect the Thinking Ability of Old Men?

Cognitive function and short-term exposure to residential air temperature: A repeated measures study based on spatiotemporal estimates of temperature  (Abstract, Lingzhen Dai, Itai Kloog, Brent A. Coull, David Sparrow, Avron Spiro III, Pantel S. Vokonas, Joel D. Schwartz, Environmental Research, Jul. 5, 2016)
Today we review research into the cognitive abilities of a sample of older men (average age 74) in the northeast USA to exposure to indoor temperatures of up to 25.7 C for short periods of time. This is important for at least two reasons: over the next 20 years, climate change will lead to a doubling of the number of days above 30C and, in addition, the number of people over 70 is also expected to double over the next 20 years. Earlier studies indicate that exposure to outdoor temperatures above 32C (and below -10C) led to the greatest drop in cognitive abilities.  Heat stress may lead to poor decision making that adds to the health risk that these people face during heat waves. Results indicate that higher temperatures affect hippocampal neural activities that are crucial for brain functions like learning and memory. Both hot and cold temperatures are associated with a loss of cognitive abilities and this may be greater for persons over the age of 70. Further research along these lines is needed to examine the impact on older women.


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