Oppressive summertime heat gets everybody talking about the importance of staying cool. But a regular summer day can also put your body at risk if you’re not taking care of yourself.
Hot weather, in a way, is like a stress test for your body. Some people will respond poorly. Hot temperatures could lead to heart attacks, stronger symptoms for people with congestive heart failure, or enhanced arrhythmias.
Heat can pose rather serious risks to both the heart and brain.
A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2020 used data showing that hospital admissions for cardiovascular problems jumped in the days after temperature spikes.
Other research published in Stroke, a journal published by the American Heart Association, found that hot temperatures seem to increase the risk of ischemic stroke.
Regulating heat is all about blood flow. A healthy body gets rid of heat by pushing blood to the skin. People also sweat, which evaporates to get draw more heat away from the skin.
Excessive heat, however, can overwhelm this system. It’s also why people with blood flow issues, such as high blood pressure, a history of heart disease, or Type 2 diabetes are at high risk for issues resulting from heat exposure, as it makes it difficult to keep cool.
Here are some ways you can optimize your chances of staying safe when it gets hot out.
Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion: Headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, or cool, moist skin can all signify heat exhaustion. It can be treated by moving out of the heat or using a damp cloth to cool off.
If things don’t improve in about an hour, seek medical attention.
Heat stroke is more severe and is a medical emergency. It will feature a rapid pulse, body temperature over 103 degrees F, and red, hot, dry skin.
Stay hydrated: Hydration helps the heart pump efficiently, and muscles work more effectively. Sip water daily and monitor how much water you’re losing through sweat. Urine should be a light yellow.
Pay attention to what you eat: Watermelon, cucumber, and other water-rich fruits and vegetables are great for the summer heat. However, you’ll want to avoid big meals that tax your body.
Heavy meals demand more blood to go to the digestive system, which can limit what is available to get to the skin to help keep you cool.