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5 Tips for Staying Heart-Healthy in the Summer Heat

Some like it hot – but not your heart.

Today marks the official start of summer, the season of bright skies, barbecues, and beach days.

However, sizzling summer heat puts a damper on the fun and games when it impacts heart health. Extreme heat can strain the heart and heighten the risk of cardiovascular-related death, particularly among older individuals and those with coronary artery disease, heart failure, and arrythmia (abnormal heart rhythm).

A 2023 study linked extreme heat to more than 1,600 excess cardiovascular deaths from 2018-2019.  It extreme heat as a maximum heat index of 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

A heat index is different from plain air temperature. It factors in the humidity level to measure how hot the air feels. When humidity is high, it’s harder for your body to cool because sweat evaporates from your skin more slowly. High humidity, combined with high heat, causes that yucky sticky feeling. So, air temperature in the 80s with high humidity can feel extreme and be dangerous to your heart, especially if you have underlying health issues.  

Dehydration is closely tied to heart function and is a leading danger of high summer heat. A significant decrease in water in the body reduces blood volume, forcing your heart to work harder to circulate the remaining blood. This can increase your heart rate, placing more strain on your heart and blood vessels. In some cases, it may lead to cardiac arrest.   

 The American Heart Association provides these five tips to help you stay heart-healthy in the heat:

1.  Watch the clock: Avoid the outdoors in the early afternoon (about noon to 3 p.m.) because the sun is usually at its strongest, putting you at higher risk for heat-related illnesses.

2.  Dress for the heat: Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing in breathable fabrics such as cotton, or a newer fabric that repels sweat. Wear a hat and sunglasses, and apply a water-resistant sunscreen with at least SPF 15, and reapply it every two hours.

3.  Drink up: Stay hydrated by drinking a few cups of water before, during, and after going outside or exercising. Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.

4.  Take regular breaks: Find some shade or a cool place, hydrate and start again.

5.  Follow the doctor’s orders: Continue to take all medications as prescribed.

Summertime is fun time. With the right plan and preparation, you can enjoy the best of the sunny season and stay heart-healthy.

 

At Starting Hearts, we can provide specific training for making a life-saving difference.

Contact us for more information: [email protected].

Patrick Golden is a healthcare writer based in Massachusetts.