How to deal with extremely hot weather?

As the mercury sinks and the sun goes into hibernation, many of us in Northern countries dream of warmer places. But the arrival in hotter countries is not always as pleasant as in our dreams – the heat can be a shock to the system. Our Brazilian Post Doc, Marcia Alves, explains:

Palm tree and hammock

When the sun is at the hottest, look for a nice coconut tree with its huge shadow!

Extreme temperatures represent a health problem all over the world. While Northern Europeans suffer in January with the cold and often dry air, the countries below the Equator, like Brazil, may be extremely hot and humid. Norwegians and most people from cold countries are quite good at winter sports, or at least good at dressing for sports in very cold temperatures. But most Norwegians, and other people not used to heat, suffer when travelling to hot places, something that could ruin their holiday.

Which signs appear as children or older people get heat-related problems? How and when to do exercise? What to drink, eat or wear?

Daily work and exercising in hot weather can pose a challenge even for the fittest. Millions of people die every year due to heat-related problems, especially children and older people. In cities like Rio de Janeiro during the summer, temperatures may get close to 40oC and humidity over 90%. This affects the body’s ability to cool itself through sweating. Normally, an average adult will lose 2-3 litres at room temperature a day through sweating; but in hot and humid conditions, this could reach 10 litres of sweat a day. This means extreme loss of body fluid. But because of the humidity, the air is already saturated, and sweating loses its effect. And so, the internal body temperature could get dangerously high.

Recently, lawyers in Rio de Janeiro have started a campaign to abolish ties and suits during their daily activities – they are not as efficient when they are feeling too hot. Likewise, policemen with outdoor duties in southern states of Brazil have already changed their uniform.

But much could still be changed. This January, in Aracaju (Sergipe) in the north of Brazil, which is even warmer than southern Brazil, I saw policemen wearing long, thick, black uniforms, heavy black boots and protective vests (and carrying heavy shotguns) inside the university campus! Would they be able to run after small, fast thieves, with fewer clothes on?

The risk of heat stroke is even higher when exercising. Last year in Brazil, some policemen died during a 10 km training race due to their hot uniforms in very hot and humid weather. So, before heading to a nice warm place, remember to include in your luggage: loose, light cotton clothes, protections for the head, skin and proper sunglasses. Once you get there, avoid the hottest sun hours, look for a nice coconut tree with its huge shadow, drink litres of fluids, and eat lots of juicy fruit and vegetables. Also avoid drinking too much alcohol as this dehydrates the body further.

If you are fit, you will cope better with the weather, but do not forget to reduce the number of workouts and give yourself more breaks.

Finally, be alert to the signs of heat stress which include: fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, thirst, etc. – especially if you travel with children or older relatives.

Now you are well prepared to have a good time!

Marcia Alves, Post Doc, CERG

Guest professor Patricia heading back home

Today at the monthly CERG lunch meeting it was time to say goodbye to our guest professor Patricia Brum from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. She has delighted us with her presence in the group for one year during her sabbatical leave, not only with her excellent scientific skills and impressive productivity, but also with her friendly nature and positive attitude.

The cooperation between CERG and Patricia’s research group at USP, Brazil started back in 2007, when she discovered the translational studies on high intensity exercise by Wisløff and colleagues. As the research focus in the two groups in many ways were directed the same way, contact was established, and Patricia visited us here in Trondheim for the first time in December that year. Since then, the exchange of knowledge between her group and CERG has been very beneficial for both parts, and we have got to know several Brazilian colleagues and new friends (see previous blog post).

Adapting to the cold and darkness here in Norway when you are used to the warm and sunny Brazilian climate may represent a great challenge for a good quality of life. However, as a recently published case study by Rolim and colleagues shows: “The main finding of this non-randomized, observational stalking study is that PCB (Patricia Chakur Brum, ed.) has adapted very well to the Nordic environment.” Beer drinking, bicycling, snow activities, good food and great friends were some of the factors directly associated with the high degree of adaption (Read the whole level 2 article here).

Thank you Patricia for this nice time, and welcome back in December – we are looking forward to work together in future research projects.

Brazil – more than football and samba!

Tomorrow Brazilians have their Independence Day – congratulations! Here in CERG we are so fortunate to have several researchers from Brazil, so let’s spend the opportunity to get to know them a little bit better. I challenged post doc Marcia Alves to tell more about her homeland, and the experiences of researching here at NTNU. 

It is our national day tomorrow, but it is not like May 17th in Norway, with big celebration throughout cities. In Brazil, it is almost like a normal Sunday. However, we celebrate a lot in the rest of the year! You have probably heard about Brazilian Carnival, football, samba… but, what else do you know about Brazil?

Brazil is an extremely huge country and its population is nowadays close to 197 million. It is ranked as  the third greatest fruit producer in the world with exporting tons of orange, banana, coconut, pineapple, papaya, cashew, cashew nuts (did you know that the nuts comes from the fruit?) and Brazilian nuts. Coffee is the national beverage, and the vodka or aquavit from Brazil is called cachaca (destilled from sugar cane) and it is used for preparing the traditional caipirinha. Others snacks that one may find in any corner bar in Brazil includes cheese buns (ostebolle, prepared in Ni Muser, Trondheim, Brazilian like recipe), and pasteis, coxinhas, rissólis (from Polish cuisine) and many others.

If you want to know more, you may find a Brazilian in your way since more and more Brazilians are coming to Norway to work on research. At NTNU Cardiac Exercise Research (CERG) group, Brazilians already make up 7 out of approximately 50. What brings Brazilians to such a  different place so far away?

Most Brazilians from the CERG group comes from Sao Paulo. The city have 15 million circulating persons each day, they may take up to 3 hours to their work, they see cars accident almost every day, and at work, they share a crowded lab space or prefer instead to work until late at night. Additionally, they may work twice as much as here to get the same results due to closer and better facilities found here. On the other hand, Sao Paulo has some of the best restaurants in the world, a nice climate, and a quite good social and cultural life.

When in Norway, Brazilians experience a completely opposite way of life. For instance, they are offered a quite higher salary, but at the same time, a much more expensive life. They can bike or walk to work (not as easily as Norwegians though, especially during winter), and they have a peaceful life during and after work. And a great thing is that Brazilians tend to be healthier in Norway, trying to follow the healthy Norwegians!

How do Norwegians feel about Brazilians? Probably, for NTNU and Norwegians, it may sometimes be annoying to have to speak and write more English. But, if you get to know a Brazilian you realize that they (almost always) may know some good technics, and they will be glad to help anyone with enthusiasm and good humor. Have a try!

An exchange program between the university of Sao Paulo and NTNU is under planning, and we look forward to get to know more Brazilians in the future.