Staying Heart Healthy in Summer Heat

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After our extremely cold and snowy winter, the summer heat and humidity have arrived. Already, in early July, we’ve experienced several days in a row of high humidity combined with temperatures in the 90’s. Most of us welcome the summer warmth, but people with heart conditions or high blood pressure have to be cautious. When the heat and humidity rise, so does the incidence of heart problems.

Steamy weather can be dangerous for older individuals, people with heart disease and those taking certain medications for conditions such as high blood pressure because they can cause the body to have an exaggerated reaction to hot weather. And, on hot, sticky days, the heart has to pump harder to initiate the sweating response that cools the body. For people who already have a weakened heart, that extra pumping can cause stress on the entire cardiovascular system.

Whether it’s just a few days, or an extended heat wave, remember these tips to stay cool and heart safe.

  • Avoid exercising or strenuous physical activity in high heat. Make plans to complete outdoor tasks early in the morning, later in the day or when the weather cools.
  • Drink plenty of water and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Water is critical to all functions in your body.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol as they can contribute to dehydration.
  • Stay in a cooler environment. If you don’t have air conditioning, get to a senior center, shopping mall or your local library during the hottest time of the day.
  • Wear light colored and lightweight clothing. Lightweight fabrics help heat to escape which allows the natural process of perspiring to cool you off.
  • Take cool showers of baths to cool down.
  • If you must go outside, wear sunblock. A sunburn can make it harder for your body to stay cool. And take a cellphone with you so that you can call for help if you feel lightheaded or ill from the heat.

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