Summer invites the pleasures of sun and water, but hot weather can also put a strain on the heart. The hotter the day, the higher your risks, making heart health critical.
There are a number of ways patients can take care of their heart health over the summer. Here are some best practices recommended by the American Heart Association:
1. Keeping hydrated. Drinking an appropriate amount of water – around 16 ounces per hour – can help prevent dehydration. Adding ice can further help regulate body temperature. Alcohol and caffeine consumption should be limited. Proper hydration reduces the heart’s workload.
2. Avoiding the hottest parts of the day. Staying indoors and keeping to the shade during the hottest part of the day can reduce the risk of heat-related illness and heart strain. The hottest part of the day is typically from late morning to mid-afternoon.
4. Keeping to an exercise routine (but with modifications). Walking, jogging and other forms of physical activity are important for strong heart health. Maintaining a heart-healthy workout plan during the summer might require some modifications, though. If indoor space isn’t available, a climate-controlled environment or shifting exercise to early morning or late evening are viable alternatives. It’s also especially important to take breaks and keep hydrated.
5. Wearing cool clothing. Wearing light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing and a wide-brimmed hat can help keep the body cool and reduce the risk of heat-related illness.
6. Eating a heart-healthy diet. Choosing foods rich in vitamins, whole grains and fiber can support heart health. Heavy or greasy meal slow digestion, which is problematic in high-temperature conditions.
7. Maintaining medication regimens. Pre-existing conditions can raise the risk of heat-related illness. While maintaining medication regimens is important, so is understanding how medications’ effects may interact with summer weather. For example, antifungals and antibiotics can increase sunlight sensitivity. Diuretics and antihypertensives, meanwhile, can heighten sensitivity to ordinary dehydration and sun exposure.
8. Learning the symptoms of heat-related cardiovascular events. Exposure to heat can exacerbate serious health conditions, including exhaustion, heat stroke and heart-rhythm abnormalities. Recognizing symptoms can reduce lag time in getting appropriate, potentially life-saving medical attention.
Summer is a time for fun in the outdoors, but it can also pose risks. Knowing how heat affects the heart can reduce those risks. Maintaining routine health care, applying best practices for heart health and keeping up with doctor’s appointments are also important.