Submitted by Carol Tomlinson, RN BS
Community Health Educator
Protect Your Heart In The Heat
Whatever brings you outside this summer, it’s important to stay safe and healthy as the heat rises. According to the American Heart Association, heat can be hard on your heart. If you are a heart patient older than 55, overweight, have high blood pressure, or are on certain medications, you may need to take special precautions in the heat.
Certain medications such as beta blockers, ace inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and diuretics can exaggerate the body’s response to the heat. Even if you are not on medications, seniors need to take extra precautions in the heat. When the temperature rises, getting enough to drink is important even if you are just sitting outside…and it is critical to heart health.
Staying hydrated helps the heart more easily pump blood through vessels to the muscles. This helps the muscles work more efficiently. Remember, if you are well hydrated your heart doesn’t have to work as hard. Dehydration (lack of bodily fluids) can lead to problems ranging from swollen feet and ankles to headaches, and even life threatening illness such as heat stroke.
A common misconception is that thirst is your best indicator that you need to drink. According to a study at the Mayo Clinic, if you are thirsty – you are already dehydrated. M. Batson, MD of this study says, “Drinking water before you go out in the heat is an important first step. Otherwise you are playing catch-up and your heart is straining to keep up.” It is also best to avoid drinks containing caffeine. Caffeine is a known diuretic which can cause you to lose fluids.
Think you’re ready to brave the heat? Watch the clock and buddy-up are good pieces of advice. It is best to avoid the outdoors between 12-3 p.m. when the sun is usually the strongest. This time of day is the most likely to put you at risk for heat related illness. If possible, when you are going to be outside in the heat, take a friend or family member with you as a buddy…just to be on the safe side.
Here are some other tips:
- Dress for the heat with lightweight, light-colored clothing in breathable fabrics.
- Wear a hat and sunglasses.
- Choose well ventilated shoes and socks that repel perspiration.
- Take regular breaks in some shade or go inside.
Whatever you decide to do in the heat, keep in mind these symptoms of serious heat related illnesses.
Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion:
- Heavy sweating
- Cold, moist skin, chills
- Dizziness or fainting
- A weak or rapid pulse
- Muscle cramps
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Nausea, vomiting or both
If you experience these symptoms, move to a cooler place and cool down as soon as possible by dousing yourself with cool water and rehydrating.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke:
- Warm, dry skin
- Strong, rapid pulse
- Confusion and/or unconsciousness
- High fever
- Throbbing headache
- Nausea and/or vomiting
If you experience these symptoms seek medical attention immediately!
For more information, visit heart.org, contact your healthcare provider or HealthLink Littauer at 736-1120. You can e-mail us at email@example.com, see our website at nlh.org, or visit our NEW wellness center at 2 Colonial Court in downtown Johnstown, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.