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Heat and heart health: What’s the connection?

Heat and heart health: What’s the connection?

The summer heat here in Louisiana can be brutal as our average highs are in the 90s throughout the summer. While the hot weather can impact your health, did you know about the link between the heat and heart health specifically? Our Lakeview Hospital team fills you in on the details below.

How the heat affects your heart

A little bit of heat can feel great on our skin, and some people love it. Even if you love the way it feels, your heart may not.

When the temperature rises, it causes your heart to beat faster. Specifically, for every one degree your body temperature goes up, your heart rate increases by about 10 beats per minute.

When your heart beats faster, it makes your heart work harder. To cool down, your body jumps into overdrive, dilating blood vessels while increasing heart rate and blood pressure. You also sweat more as a cooling mechanism, which can deplete your body of water and electrolytes.

All those methods the body has of cooling itself down can increase the risk of serious heart problems, including heart attack, heart failure and irregular heartbeats.

Tips for staying heart-safe in the Louisiana heat

High temperatures also increase the risk of heat-related illnesses, including heat stroke and heat exhaustion, so there’s good reason to keep an eye on your health when it’s hot outside. Keep yourself safe in the heat by:

  • Applying sunscreen before going outside and reapplying it regularly
  • Drinking plenty of water throughout the day
  • Finding shade whenever possible
  • Taking regular breaks when spending time outside
  • Wearing lightweight, light-colored cotton clothing that repels sweat

Taking these basic steps can be lifesaving.

Special precautions for people with heart disease

While high temperatures can be dangerous for anyone, they can be especially dangerous for people with heart disease. This is true for several reasons.

People who have a heart condition often take medications, such as diuretics or blood pressure-lowering drugs, that can impact the body’s ability to cool and make it more challenging to stay hydrated. Following a low-sodium diet can have a similar effect.

There’s another factor to consider, too. Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity”? In this case, it’s both! When it’s particularly humid outside, sweating is less effective at cooling the body down.

If you’ve been diagnosed with some type of cardiovascular disease, you’ll want to be especially careful in the heat of summer. Add a few extra steps to the ones we listed above:

  • Drink only water. Avoid soda, fruit juice and alcohol, which can limit the amount of water getting into the bloodstream.
  • Go indoors at the first sign of strain on the body, such as hot or red skin, headache, dizziness, changes in heart rate or muscle cramps.
  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast and stay indoors on intensely hot days.
  • Limit time outdoors when the humidity level is 70% or higher.

If you have high blood pressure, check your blood pressure regularly when it’s particularly hot and humid. Talk with your cardiologist or another medical provider if you’re feeling out of sorts or your blood pressure runs high.

Find exceptional heart and vascular care at Lakeview Hospital.