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Keeping Your Heart Safe in the Heat

Posted On: 07-20-2018
Keeping Your Heart Safe in the Heat
During the summer months, temperatures can reach scorching levels. Most people consider sunburns and dehydration to be the biggest risks of hot temperatures--but excessive heat can be dangerous for your heart, especially if you take blood pressure medications or have previously experienced heart failure.

As heat rises, your body works hard to regulate its temperature. Your body keeps you cool through sweating (evaporation) and through directing more blood flow to the skin (radiation). But if heat is overwhelming, these symptoms don't work as well as they could.

Dangers

When heat overwhelms your body and reduces the effectiveness of its cooling mechanisms, heat exhaustion and heat stroke can occur. Moderate overheating that includes dizziness, nausea, rapid pulse, and heavy sweating is considered heat exhaustion. Severe overheating that includes confusion, vomiting, hot and drug skin (no sweating), and loss of consciousness is considered a heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion can be helped with hydration, rest, and moving to a cooler place, while heat stroke requires prompt emergency medical attention.

Taking Precautions

You can prevent heat-related health issues in most cases. In addition to avoiding scorching temperatures and taking frequent breaks if you are out in the sun, you can also help protect your heart by staying hydrated. Don't wait until you are thirsty to drink water. Instead, plan ahead to drink water before, during, and after spending time in the heat. Avoid alcohol, because it is dehydrating.

You can also protect yourself by avoiding extreme physical activity during the hottest part of the day, and wearing loose and light clothing in the sun.

Keep in mind that young children and older adults are at an increased risk of heat-related illness. Talk to your doctor about specific precautions.

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