Excessive heat can make you ill – and can even be life threatening. The heat is blamed for about 600 deaths in the United States each year.
Although excessive heat is dangerous for all, if you’ve experienced heart failure or are taking blood pressure medications, you’re especially vulnerable* and need to take additional precautions to guard your health in the heat.
Here’s what you need to know to keep you safe when the mercury starts to climb.
How Excessive Heat Impacts Your Body
Our body closely regulates its temperature because the chemical reactions we depend on to function normally work best within a narrow temperature range.
When the temperature rises, our bodies try to keep us cool mostly by evaporation (sweating) and radiation (directing more blood flow to the skin). While these cooling mechanisms help, they have their limits. Excessive heat – especially if the humidity is high – can overwhelm our bodies defenses and lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
What is Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke?
When heat overwhelms the body’s defenses, the medical terms used are heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is moderately overheated. Signs include heavy sweating, feeling faint or dizzy, nausea and rapid pulse. Prompt recognition and treatment (rest, hydration, moving to a cooler environment) is needed to avoid progressing to heat stroke.
Heat stroke occurs when the body is severely overheated. Signs include hot, dry skin, no sweating, confusion, vomiting, and loss of consciousness (passing out). Heat stroke is a medical emergency – if you suspect someone has heat stroke, you should call 911 or other emergent medical service.
How to Keep Your Heart Safe in the Heat
Most episodes of heat-related health problems are preventable. Besides avoiding excessive heat and taking frequent breaks from the heat and sun, other effective strategies to keep you safe from the heat include:
Summer is a great time for fun and family. Don’t let excessive heat affect the health of you or your loved ones. With some knowledge of the possible consequences, and prior planning, you can keep your summer safe.
* Also at higher risk of heat-related illness: Children under 4, adults over 65, people on certain medications, and those with chronic health issues. Consult with your doctor if you have any questions about your level of risk.
BY R. TODD HURST, MD, FACC JULY 12, 2018, "How to Protect Your Heart in The Heat", www.webmd.com, https://blogs.webmd.com/heart-health/20180712/how-to-protect-your-heart-in-the-heat.