Dr. Sivasekaran, MD
August is “Safety Month” and while we take the time to consider all of the preventative ways to protect ourselves, we often overlook the negative effects that these hot summer months have on our cardiovascular systems.
With weather approaching the upper 90’s and on some days, triple digits, the heat can be unbearable at times and downright dangerous, this is particularly the case when we factor in the high level of humidity.
Our bodies self-regulate heat by sweating and also through radiating heat back into the atmosphere. When we sweat, we also perspire potassium and sodium. Both of these minerals help to control nerve function, water balance, and heart rhythm.
If you suffer from any heart conditions, the loss of these minerals can be detrimental to your cardiac condition.
Sweating can quickly escalate into dehydration; therefore it’s critical to stay hydrated with cool water, not sugary drinks. If we become dehydrated, we increase our risk of raising the blood pressure and having heart palpitations.
When our bodies are hot, the skin radiates heat into the air to normalize our body temperature. When the air is sweltering, our bodies can no longer reduce its high temperature this way, as it has nowhere to radiate the heat into or to take in cooler air from, as the temperature is greater than your bodies.
Warm weather makes the heart pump faster, which requires more oxygen. When it’s hot, and we can’t cool down, or breathe efficiently, we complicate the heart’s normal functioning, by putting undue stress on its muscle contractions.
The warning signs of heat stroke or other heat-related disorders are:
• Muscle cramping
• Heart palpitations
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s imperative to get to a cool place, drink cool water and call 911 if symptoms persist.
Ways to stay cool and avoid the heat-related heart issues
• Drink extra water
• Talk to your physician about reducing your diuretic pills
• DO NOT exercise in the heat
• Avoid the hottest times of the day (10:00 am to 4:00 pm)
• Eat plenty of cooling foods like vegetables and fruit
• Stay in an air-conditioned room
• Avoid caffeinated and sugary drinks
Not everyone has air conditioning, so it’s critical to find a public place with cool air, like a library or shopping mall to stay safe in during the hottest days. Drinking electrolyte-enhanced water will also help to replace any lost minerals. Additionally, if you have congestive heart failure, you should talk to your cardiologist about specific ways to stay cool that will not interfere with your fluid and sodium intake issues.
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