Inquest into deaths and disappearances of foreign tourists in Greece: ‘No matter how smart you are, you’re at risk’

British TV presenter Michael Mosley’s death while hiking in the heat on the Greek island of Symi has raised the alarm over what appears to be a fatal incident, reports CNN.

Despite the intense heat, Greece gathers thousands of tourists. Photo archive

Unfortunately, Greece has endured a severe early summer heat wave with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), resulting in several deaths and disappearances of tourists.

The next day, a Dutch tourist was found dead on the island of Samos. The next day, the body of an American tourist was found on the small island of Madraqi west of Corfu.

Another American tourist, Albert Calibet, has been missing since a trip to Amargos on June 11. Two other French women disappeared in Chiginous after going for a walk.

According to CNN, the bodies of the dead still need to be examined to determine the exact cause of death, but officials are warning people not to underestimate the impact of extreme temperatures.

There is a common pattern: they all went on a trip amid high temperatures.South Aegean Police spokesman Petros Vasilakis told Reuters.

Some scientists are raising an awareness that what’s happening in Greece is affecting the body and, in particular, the brain, which can cause confusion, affect decision-making and affect risk perception.

As climate change fuels longer and more intense heat waves, scientists are trying to figure out how our brains will cope.

The brain is the “master switch”.

Research has traditionally focused on the effects of extreme heat on muscles, skin, lungs and heart, but “For me, the brain is the most important thing.” Damian Bailey, professor of physiology and biochemistry at the University of South Wales, said: This is “Master Switch” For the body, he declared CNN.

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Body temperature is regulated in the brain. The hypothalamus, a small diamond-shaped structure, acts as a thermostat. It performs a delicate dance to maintain the body’s internal temperature very close to 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit). When it’s hot, the hypothalamus activates sweat glands and dilates blood vessels to cool the body.

“But the brain works best at a narrow range of temperatures, and even small changes can affect it. Many people are familiar with the feeling of sluggishness and lethargy on a hot summer day. But when the heat rises, it can have serious consequences, including depleting body fluids and reducing blood flow to the brain.” Professor Bailey said.

In experiments he conducted on research participants in an ambient room, where he raised the temperature from 21 to 40 degrees Celsius (about 70 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit), blood flow to the brain decreased by 9% to 10%.

“It’s a big problem because there’s not enough fuel in the engine that’s running at top limit all the time.” Bailey said.

And it has an impact. Extreme heat disrupts normal brain function, said Kim Meidenbauer, a neuroscientist at Washington State University.

“Brain networks that normally help people think clearly, reason, remember, create and generate ideas can be reversed”he told CNN.

It becomes difficult to make complex decisions like which route to hike – which sounds simple but requires weighing various factors.

There is also evidence that people are more likely to make risky decisions and engage in impulsive behaviors when exposed to heat, he added.

An altered perception of risk, coupled with impaired cognitive function, can have more severe consequences.

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“It’s not just that you can get a little overheated and get sunburned. You’re talking about life-threatening (situations) like poor decision-making, lapses in judgment. Kim Meidenbauer said.

Scientists are beginning to unravel the range of effects heat has on the brain, not only on decision-making, but also on mood, emotions and mental health.

Who is vulnerable?

Some people are more affected by heat than others. Older people, especially those over 65, are at risk because their bodies don’t always thermoregulate. All the missing people in Greece are over 50 years old.

Very young children and pregnant women are also at higher risk, as are those with pre-existing conditions, including psychiatric conditions. But heat is dangerous for anyone.

In 2016, a team of scientists followed 44 college students during a heat wave in Boston and found that those without air conditioning experienced a significant decline in cognitive performance.

“No one is immune to the health effects of heat.”said José Guillermo Cedeno Laurent, one of the study’s authors and an assistant professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health.

Anyone who is very fit, understands the dangers and has plenty of water can risk their lives if they decide to hike in extremely hot temperatures, Bailey said.

How to protect yourself

There are behavioral things people can do to protect themselves and reduce risk, experts say.

These include avoiding exercise during the hottest parts of the day, walking in cooler parts of the day, and seeking shade when possible. Wearing loose clothing and applying ice packs to the head and neck can also help.

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Drinking water is essential, not just when you’re super thirsty, Bailey said.

It is important not to reach a point where the body loses fluids faster than it can absorb them.

Experts also recommend electrolyte drinks, which can help replace some of the fluids lost through sweat.

“It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how fit you are: if you go outside in temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius, you are at risk”Dr. Bailey concluded.

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