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Epiphany Healthcare Blog

6 Tips for Protecting Your Heart in the Summer Heat

Posted by Allison Fawber on June 29, 2012 at 3:19 PM

Is the summer heat getting to you yet? At Epiphany Cardio's main offices in Richmond, VA and Durham, NC, temperatures are reaching 104 degrees! Before you venture into the sun on a hot summer day, make sure you are taking proper precaution to avoid the dangerous heat index. Many people are aware that the summertime heat can cause physical discomfort, but few understand the serious effects heat can have on the heart. Heat stroke occurs when a person’s body overheats and cannot cool down properly. The internal systems may begin to shut down, which puts a significant strain on the heart. Anyone who is exposed to excessively high temperatures should take certain precautions.

Drink lots of water in the summer heat
1. Avoid too Much Time in Heat/Overheating
Staying aware of the hazards associated with elevated temperatures is a vital step in protecting the heart. As the summer temperatures climb, the body attempts to keep the organs cool by directing an increased amount of blood flow to the skin. The extra effort the heart puts forth can cause considerable damage. Avoiding becoming overheated is the best way to safeguard heart health.

2. Know your Limits
People who are overweight or elderly may need to take extra measures to prevent heat exhaustion. Infants and young children can be severely affected by heat as well. Those who have underlying heart conditions or are on certain medications should also properly protect themselves in the warm weather. Anyone in this high risk category should stay out of the sun during the hottest hours of the day. 

3. Stay Hydrated
One of the best ways to protect the heart from summertime heat is to stay hydrated. Dehydration can cause the heart to pump blood more quickly, which increases heart stress. Drinking a cup of water every hour or so while spending time in the heat can prevent dehydration. It’s best to avoid drinking alcoholic or caffeinated beverages in high temperatures. 

4. Wear Light Clothing that "Breathes"
Another way to maintain heart health during the sweltering days of summer is to dress appropriately. Wearing breathable, lightweight materials helps the body remain cool. It’s also a good idea to take regular breaks from the heat by turning on the air conditioner or finding a shaded place to sit for awhile. Cooling down the body externally is the quickest way to keep the internal organs from breaking down.

5. Take Breaks/Limit Strenuous Activity
Heat exhaustion can occur rapidly, and many people are unaware when their bodies become too hot. This is particularly true for those who exercise during the summer months. To avoid any problems while working out, limit any strenuous activity during the hottest hours. Take frequent breaks, and exercise with a partner whenever possible.

6. Be Aware of What You're Putting Into Your Body
Watching food intake is essential on extremely warm summer days. Some foods can cause the body to dehydrate quickly. Avoid sugary substances, and opt for foods with a high water content instead. These include lettuce, avocado, watermelon, grapefruit and yogurt. People who lose fluids during exercise may also need to supplement with electrolyte-rich drinks.

Regardless of the outdoor activity a person participates in, the rules for staying healthy are different in the summertime. By following these guidelines, it is possible to maintain a healthy heart while still enjoying the sun. As temperatures rise, it’s crucial to stay aware of the warning signals. Anyone experiencing the symptoms of heat stroke or exhaustion should seek medical care as soon as possible. Enjoy the summer heat, but be safe and protect your heart!

Topics: heart health, heat stroke, dehydration, Protecting your heart

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