When the summer heat hits, it can be a time of joy for outdoor activities and a time for caution if you are worried about your heart. Protecting your heart during the summer is crucial to your health. There are few easy things you can do to prepare for the heat and keep your heart happy.
1. Stay Hydrated
It might be obvious, but staying hydrated is one of the main keys to protecting your heart (and overall health) during the heat of the summer. When you get dehydrated, your heart has to work even harder to keep your body going. In addition, your body has to release more hormones to retain salt and water, which stresses the heart even more.
The best thing for your heart is to drink two to four cups of water every hour when you’re out in the high heat. When you are doing intense exercise, be sure to drink electrolytes as well (a sports drink containing sodium and potassium). Keep in mind, you need to avoid sugary drinks like fruit juice, which slow the absorption of water. Also avoid caffeine and alcohol as these can also deplete fluids. If you find yourself having margaritas by the beach, have a glass of water, too.
A word of caution: Patients with congestive heart failure should check with their doctor, as drinking too much can do more harm than good.
2. Monitor Your Meds
When the temperature rises outside, you should definitely keep your medications on target. It is a good idea to go over any questions or concerns you might have with your doctor.
If you are on certain prescription medicines, like ace inhibitors, beta blockers, or calcium channel blockers, these can actually intensify your body’s reaction to hot temperatures and humidity.
Your doctor may also caution you about diuretics. These are often used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure). Diuretics can reduce sodium and water, in addition to the amounts you may be losing through sweat on hot days. However, do not stop taking your medication. Talk with your doctor to be sure you are taking the proper precautions in the heat with regard to your medications.
3. Check Your Attire
Before heading out, be sure you are aware of your attire. The outdoors can heat up super quickly from the time your leave your home. Be sure you are prepared with lightweight, light colored and breathable clothing that is made from cotton. Grab your sunglasses, sun tan lotion and wide-brimmed hat to complete your look for that hot summer heat.
4. Exercise, But With Caution
Anytime you exercise, you should be cautious of your health, the weather and how your body feels. If you get dizzy, light headed or it just doesn’t feel right, then just stop.
The hottest part of the day is mid afternoon, so take extreme caution when exercising then. Especially if you are trying a new workout or increasing the intensity, it is best to stay indoors with loads of air conditioning. Always take frequent breaks, always drink plenty of water and electrolytes, and always listen to your body.
Frozen water bottles are an awesome addition to your hotter workouts. When they melt, just drink up.
5. Eat Small Meals
Eating smaller, H2O packed meals is going to also help with your hydration status. Consider bulking up on salads, smoothies, fruits and cold soups. These foods will help keep your body temperature lower and ensure you keep more liquids flowing through your body.
6. Cool Off
When you spend too much time in the heat, your body will let you know. You will feel your muscles cramping, weakness and heavy sweating. These are all signs of heat exhaustion and all signs that you have pushed yourself too far. It is time to head inside and take a cool shower or use ice packs to bring your core temperature down.
You may need to call 911 immediately if you have chest pains. Also call if you have signs of heat stroke, including a high fever, dizziness or confusion, a pounding heart, or hot, red, or dry or moist skin.
During the hot summer heat you need to protect your heart and your health. Being prepared for the heat is the best thing you can do. Be mindful of the amount of water you drink, the exercises you do and when you go outside.