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5 Tips to Heat-Proof Your Heart

Heat DangersA blistering heat wave has been rolling across the country as mid-summer temperatures hit peak levels. This weekend in particular is predicted to be sweltering for anyone in the northeast, with heat indexes in some cities reaching upwards of 115⁰ F.

Most people are well-accustomed to the profuse sweating and discomfort such heat can bring, but few people realize the seriousness of heat’s effects on the body, and on your heart in particular. Being aware of the dangers of high temperatures and knowing how to recognize your body’s warning signs can protect you from heat-related illness or death.

As temperatures rise, your body compensates for the heat by increasing the flow of blood to the skin in an attempt to keep internal organs cool. For every two degree increase in core body temperature, the average person’s heart beats an extra 30 times per minute. When people are outside for extended periods of time on extremely hot days, their internal temperature can significantly rise, putting a dangerous strain on the heart.

Dehydration, another common symptom of heat illness, can exacerbate underlying heart conditions and can even cause damage to people with otherwise healthy hearts. When a person is dehydrated, their heart begins to pump faster to compensate for decreased plasma volume and blood pressure.

With all the danger presented by excessive heat, follow these tips to protect yourself and your heart:

  1. Turn on the A/C
    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death.” If you don’t have air-conditioning in your home, plan to spend the day in a mall, library, movie theater or other climate-controlled area to keep cool.
  2. Drink up
    Whether you are staying inside or have to be on-the-go, keep a water bottle on you at all times. Be proactive and make sure you are getting at least two full glasses of cool water each hour to prevent dehydration before symptoms begin to set in.
  3. Avoid the sun
    Most doctors recommend staying inside as much as possible during excessively hot days, but if you must go outdoors schedule activities in early morning or late evening hours.  Make sure to limit strenuous activities and rest frequently in cool or shady areas. If you are going outside by yourself, always let someone else know where you are going or opt to take a partner along.
  4. Know your risk
    Infants, young children, adults over age 65 and those with previous heart issues (including heart disease or high blood pressure) are at an especially high risk for heat illness. If you or someone you know falls into these categories, take extra precautions to remain cool and hydrated.
  5. Watch what you eat
    On extremely hot days, avoid excess amounts of sugar, which can dehydrate the body. Conversely, consuming some extra salt in the form of a sports drink can help replace salt lost through heavy sweating. Eating foods like watermelon, lettuce, yogurt and milk which have naturally high water content can also help ward off dehydration.

If you have questions about protecting your heart from summer’s high temperatures or need to schedule an appointment, contact our office today.

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