How Climate Change Affects Our Health Today

Think climate change is only a problem for the future? It may be time to think again. Whether weather patterns are changing because of humans or not, climate change is something that should worry all of us. Of course environmental advocates paint a scary picture of rising sea levels and mass extinction. But even if you don’t buy the more distant, apocalyptic scenarios, there are plenty of good reasons to take climate change seriously. In fact, many elderly citizens feel the effects of climate change daily even if they don’t—or can’t—realize them.

Climate change affects the air we breathe

Climate change affects the air we breathe

Perhaps the easiest effect of climate change to quantify is how it changes the air we breathe. According to the website for the Environmental Protection Agency, warmer temperatures worsen the deleterious effects of certain pollutants, including ozone and particulate matter. (Particulate matter are solid pollutants that are small enough to be inhaled.) This means that climate change both directly and indirectly affects our respiratory health. When we burn fossil fuels, we contribute carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, which insulates and warms the earth. We also introduce pollutants into the air.

This can have major consequences for older Americans. According to the Center for Disease Control, respiratory disease is the third leading cause of death among Americans over 65. In a country in which 57 million people live in counties with substandard air quality, climate change is a real threat to our health. Not tomorrow, today.

Climate change….changes the weather

Climate change….changes the weather

This one may seem obvious, but weather changes pose a real threat to the elderly community in particular. The EPA says that warmer temperatures pose a risk to people who are especially prone to overheating. If you live in the the south, where temperatures can get downright toasty in the summer, climate change may be a threat to your health. Northerners aren’t safe either. According to the EPA website, “Excessive heat is more likely to affect populations in northern latitudes where people are less prepared to cope with excessive temperatures.”

All of this says nothing of the fact that a spike in global temperatures means more water is evaporating—and larger storms are being formed. Both overheating and natural disaster are major threats to older folks. Overheating can lead to cardiovascular trouble, and natural disasters can close down entire cities. If you need access to a doctor and a hurricane hits, you may be out of luck for a few days, at least.

How you can help protect yourself

The EPA has a number of ideas about how to fight climate change. Saving energy, conserving water, and making sure your home is as energy efficient as possible are all fine ideas. But if you’re looking to fight the immediate impacts of climate change, be aware of your surroundings. Check the air quality of your city using this handy tracker. Be sure to be on the lookout for major weather patterns and plan accordingly. When it comes to fighting the effects of climate change, a little recognition can go a long way.

Last updated: 05.19.2017

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and it is not meant to be relied on as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult your physician before starting any exercise or dietary program or taking any other action respecting your health. In case of a medical emergency, call 911.

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