Heart Stressed by Summer Heat

Jun 15, 2022 | Heart Health

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Summertime is often full of fun activities, but on the hottest days of the year, it can be dangerous for people with heart problems. While heat waves are unpleasant for healthy people, they can be dangerous for those with cardiovascular trouble.

For your body to stay cool on hot days, it needs to reroute blood flow to your skin to radiate heat. Keeping up with this increased demand for blood means your heart must work harder and beat faster. 

The more work your heart does, the more stress that is put on it. Increased stress means an increased risk of heart-related health problems. In some cases, this can result in a stress-related heart attack. 

How Can You Protect Your Heart in the Heat?

Generally, people over age 50, people who are overweight, and people who are heart patients may need to take special precautions in the heat. 

Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise regimen or continuing your exercise regimen on very hot days. In addition, be careful in the heat if you take beta blockers, ace receptor blockers, ace inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, or diuretics, as they can all affect your body’s response to heat.

If you have to be outside on very hot days, stay in the shade as much as possible and drink plenty of water. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat, and take regular breaks if you’re doing physical activity. 

How Do You Know if You’re Having Heat-Related Heart Symptoms?

When the body can’t keep itself cool in hot temperatures because the heart can’t keep up with the demand for increased blood flow, heat stroke can occur. 

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Cool, clammy skin
  • Nausea
  • Fainting

When left untreated, heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke, which is a potentially fatal medical emergency. Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • High fever
  • Hot, dry skin without sweating
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

Avoid Summer Heat if You’re a Heart Patient

If you have heart disease or a condition that affects your heart’s function, it’s important to always be aware of the current temperature and what it may increase to that day. Temperatures that reach 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, especially when combined with high humidity, can be dangerous if you have impaired heart function, as your body may not be able to stay cool.

Consider exercising early in the morning, late in the evening or moving your activities indoors. In addition, ask your doctor about the effects that your medications may have on you during the summer months, especially when avoiding high heat may be difficult. 

Finally, if you’ve had a recent heart stress test that shows poor heart function, don’t push it. Stay out of the heat as much as possible. 

Listen to your heart. If you’re experiencing symptoms, seek emergency medical attention. Protect your heart—and your overall health—with an annual checkup with a primary care provider. Connect with one here.

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