With the summer here, we all enjoy spending more time outdoors and enjoying the sunshine. However, it is important to be conscious of the health risks associated with the rising temperatures, particularly the effect the heat can have upon your heart. Here we cover some of the most common heat-related risks and how to enjoy the summer while safeguarding your heart’s health.
How the Heart Handles Heat
When temperatures rise, the body tries to lower its temperature through radiation and sweating. Radiation occurs when the blood vessels in the skin relax and accept more blood to radiate heat to the cooler skin. Sweating occurs by releasing heat through evaporation from the skin. Radiation fails to work when the air temperature reaches the body temperature, and sweating stops working effectively when humidity levels go above 75 percent.
These coping methods cause stress on the heart. Radiation forces the heart to work substantially harder to move more blood, and sweating can steal minerals from the blood stream. While this stress will go unnoticed by a healthy person, it can cause serious strain for someone who has cholesterol-clogged arteries or whose heart has been damaged by a heart attack or heart disease.
It can be a problem for people who:
- Are taking beta blockers
- Are taking diuretics
- Have Parkinson’s disease
- Have diabetes
- Have had a stroke
- Suffer from heart failure
Take a Load Off … Your Heart
Stay cool. Use common sense and avoid hot, humid days for outdoor activities. It’s best to be inside chilled air-conditioned air on these days. If you do not have air-conditioning, try a movie theater or another cool place. Take a cool shower or bath. Placing a cool cloth or ice pack under your arms or on your groin will also help. Fans are useful in helping the evaporation process, but only if the air temperature is lower than your body temperature.
Drink up. Make sure you are consuming plenty of water. Don’t wait until you are thirsty. Also, make a point to avoid alcoholic beverages, soda, and other sugary drinks.
Choose the right time. If you are exercising outside, do so in the early morning or late evening hours when the sun is lower and the temperature has gone down.
Eat wisely. Choose cold soups, fruits, and salads that your body will be able to digest easily.
We hope you and your family have a wonderful summer and enjoy the great outdoors. But should you need emergency medical assistance for heat-related illness, call 9-1-1 immediately. For more information on heat-related illness, contact us at Central Florida Regional Hospital. Visit us online or call our Consult-A-Nurse Health Information and Referral Services at (800) 445-3392.
Heat Can Beat the Heart (MSN Health)
Extreme Heat Guide (CDC)