Not just in winter, the heat of summer can also increase your risk of heart attack, especially if you already have heart disease, diabetes, or high cholesterol. According to one study, very high heat can lower blood pressure, causing a person’s heart to beat faster and basically putting them at risk for a heart attack. Limiting your time outdoors, especially in the afternoon, and adequate hydration can help prevent heart problems. (Also read: How extreme heat can lead to a heart attack; prevention tips)
Research published in the European Heart Journal looked at nearly 27,000 heart attack patients between 1987 and 2014 and found that between 2001 and 2014, when average temperatures were higher than normal, the number of heart attacks increased.
Also in extreme heat conditions, there is extra stress on the heart to pump more blood to normalize body temperature, which can also affect heart health and increase the risk of heart attacks in the summer.
“With many areas of the country experiencing the summer heat, people need to take extra care to protect their hearts. Precautions are a high priority, especially for the elderly and individuals with high blood pressure, obesity or a history of heart disease and stroke. When it’s hot, the body tries to cool itself by transferring blood from the main organs under the skin. This change causes the heart to pump more blood, putting it under extreme stress,” says Dr. Gajinder Kumar Goyal, Director of Cardiology at QRG Super Specialty Hospital, Faridabad.
Dr. Goyal also adds that certain heart medications can make a person sick during the summer and it is wise to take precautions when venturing out into the heat.
“Some heart medications, such as angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and diuretics, which disrupt blood pressure responses or reduce sodium in the body , can exaggerate the body’s response to heat and cause you to feel sick,” he said.
The cardiologist noted that while babies and the elderly are more prone to heat problems, extreme temperatures can lead to health problems for anyone.
“Dehydration strains the heart, putting it at risk. Hydration helps the heart pump blood more easily through the blood vessels to the muscles. And it helps the muscles work effectively,” adds Dr. Goyal.
Tips to keep your heart healthy in the heat
· Stay hydrated; drink plenty of water before, during and after to make up for the fluid loss in your body. Remember to drink before you feel thirsty and avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.
· Stay indoors in the early afternoon (around 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm) because the sun is often at its strongest, putting you at greater risk of heat-related illness.
· It is advisable to wear light, light-colored clothing in breathable fabrics, such as cotton, or a newer fabric that fights sweat.
· Don’t forget to take regular breaks. You can find some shade or a cool place, stop for a few minutes, rehydrate and start over.
· Continue taking all medications prescribed by the specialist.
Signs of heat exhaustion:
· Excessive sweat
· Cold and clammy skin, chills
· Feeling dizzy or faint
· Muscle cramps
· Rapid and shallow breathing
· Nausea, vomiting, or both
“If you experience these symptoms, immediately move to a cooler place, stop exercising and cool down immediately by showering with cold water and rehydrating yourself. You may need to seek medical attention,” says the cardiologist.
Signs when you need urgent medical attention:
· Warm and dry skin without sweat
· Experiencing confusion and/or unconsciousness
· extreme fever
· Splitting headache