Summer is officially here and that means a rise in temperatures. As much as you may love summer, it can pose dangers for your heart if you aren’t careful, especially if you have an underlying condition such as high blood pressure, obesity, or a history of heart disease or stroke. As you prepare for a summer of fun, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself.
Heat’s effect on the heart
Water will be your best friend this summer. That’s because heat and dehydration are a dangerous combination for your heart. Heat and dehydration force the heart to work harder to cool itself by pumping more blood and shifting it from major organs to underneath the skin.
Research shows that when temperatures reach extremes of an average daily temperature of 109 degrees Fahrenheit the number of deaths from heart disease may double or triple, and that the more temperatures fluctuate during the summer, the more severe strokes may become.
“While heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable, more than 600 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you have heart disease or have had a stroke or you’re older than 50 or overweight, it’s extremely important to take special precautions in the heat to protect your health,” says AHA President Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones.
Taking medication to treat a heart-related condition? These may also affect your body’s response to the heat this summer.
“Some medications like angiotensin receptor blockers [ARBs], angiotensin-converting enzyme [ACE] inhibitors, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers and diuretics, which affect blood pressure responses or deplete the body of sodium, can exaggerate the body’s response to heat and cause you to feel ill in extreme heat,” says Lloyd-Jones, a professor of heart research, preventive medicine, medicine and pediatrics at Northwestern University in Chicago.
If this has you considering stopping your medicines, you should reconsider. These medications are essential to your health. Instead, talk to your doctor about your concerns.
Even if you’re not taking heart medications, you should take precautions in the heat.
“Staying hydrated is key. It is easy to get dehydrated even if you don’t think you’re thirsty,” Lloyd-Jones says. “Drink water before, during and after going outside in hot weather. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty. And the best way to know if you are getting enough fluid is to monitor your urine output and make sure the urine color is pale, not dark or concentrated.”
Tips for staying safe in the heat this summer
What to do in the face of unrelenting high temperatures?
The AHA provided the following hot weather safety tips: