Heart Problems and the Heat

This spring, many parts of the United States experienced historic heat waves. Summer is officially underway, and experts are predicting warmer than normal temperatures for much of the country.

Heart Problems and the Heat

Extreme temperatures increase health risks for people with chronic conditions, including heart problems. If you have heart disease, here’s how to stay cool and protect yourself when the temperature rises.

How Does Hot Weather Affect the Heart?

Exposure to excessive heat not only increases the risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, but can also place a significant burden on cardiovascular health. It stresses the cardiovascular system and makes the heart work harder. This can increase the risk of heart attack, irregular heartbeat (heart palpitations) and heart failure.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the interaction of excess heat and cardiovascular disease contributes to nearly a quarter of heat-related deaths.

And the higher the temperature, the greater the risk. A recent study in the journal Circulation looked at cardiovascular death rates over seven years in Kuwait, where daytime temperatures can reach triple digits in the hottest months. The researchers found an association between increased temperature and risk of cardiovascular death, with most temperatures between 95°F and 109°F.

Dr. Aaron Bernstein, interim director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard-Th. For the people”. Chan School of Public Health.

How Does the Body Shed Heat?

Your body is designed to shed excess heat in two major ways, each of which can affect the heart:

Radiation When the air around you is cooler than your body, you radiate the excess heat into the air. This process requires rerouting blood flow so that more of it reaches the skin.

Evaporative sweat helps cool you by removing heat from your skin. It works best when the air is dry. But when it’s hot and humid, sweat comes to the skin as your body temperature rises.

When the air temperature approaches or exceeds body temperature, especially in high humidity, the heart has to beat faster and pump harder to help your body cool down. have to do it. On a hot, humid day, your heart can pump two to four times more blood per minute than on a cool day.

How Can You Protect Yourself and Your Heart When Temperatures Rise?

How Can You Protect Yourself and Your Heart When Temperatures Rise?Some heart medications can increase problems on hot days. For example, beta blockers slow the heart rate and inhibit the heart’s ability to circulate blood quickly enough for efficient heat exchange. Diuretics (water pills) increase urine output and increase the risk of dehydration.

While exposure to extreme heat and heat waves affects everyone, having existing heart problems increases your risk of heat-related illness and hospitalization. So it’s especially important to try to follow basic strategies to stay cool, including:

  • Monitor the weather forecast for heat advisories and stay indoors on these days. If the house is too hot, check with your city or town health department for cooling centers and other options to help you stay cool. If you do go out, evening and early morning are often the best times. Rest in the shade whenever possible.
  • When outside, try to drink 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes. Set a timer to remind you. “Never wait until you’re thirsty to drink,” says Dr. Bernstein. If you have heart failure, ask your doctor how much fluid you should drink each day, because fluid can build up and cause swelling. If you take diuretics, ask how much you should drink in hot weather.
  • Avoid soda or fruit juice and limit alcohol. Soda and fruit juice can slow the passage of water from the digestive system into the bloodstream. Although research is limited, some studies have found that heavy alcohol consumption may increase the risk of heat stroke during hot weather.
  • Protect your skin. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool down and increases dehydration. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, wrap-around sunglasses, and light, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Also, apply an adequate broad-spectrum or UVA/UVB protection sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to all exposed skin 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every hour.
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