how to maintain heart health in hot temperatures

How To Maintain Heart Health Even in Hot Temperatures

According to the CDC, every year, 600 people die of heat exhaustion. The arid Southwest or humid Southeast might first come to mind, but temperatures can soar even in the North. Subsequently, regardless of what draws you to the great outdoors, it’s important to remain vigilant and protect your health.

Tips for People With Pre-Existing Conditions

Almost half of Americans live with some form of heart disease. If you already know you have a heart condition, then it becomes easier to plan ahead.

Talk to Your Doctor

Maintaining a healthy weight is an often-praised way to preserve heart health. When it comes to fitness, however, some activities might prove too strenuous for you and could put you at risk. 

Before starting a new exercise routine, talk to your doctor. Similarly, if your doctor prohibits certain types of activities, it is a good idea to take heed.

Double-Check Medication

Sometimes it’s not your heart condition itself but your medication that might put you at risk during exercise. For instance, some heart medication can deplete the body of sodium, which could prove detrimental while engaging in activities outdoors. Ask your doctor about switching them if necessary, but never stop taking them without consent..

Stay Hydrated

If you have ever visited with friends in the Southwest desert, you might have felt they were overreacting when pushing you to drink more water while on spring and fall hikes. While outdoors in arid climates, your sweat can dry up immediately so you never even know you’re losing water. 

It’s always important to stay hydrated no matter where you are, but drink a little extra in desert climates. This is especially important for people over 50 years old.

Tips for the General Public

Unfortunately, many people might not realize they have a heart condition until they suffer a life-threatening episode that requires medical attention. In some instances, it might cost them their lives. Because of this, it’s important to take precautions no matter what your current health status is.

Choose a Time Wisely

When hiking in some areas of America, you might notice signs warning you about when you are most likely to suffer from heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Pay attention to these signs. In general, try to avoid the outdoors at high noon when the sun is brightest and hottest. The exact time can vary by season and climate, but in most parts of America, noon to 3 p.m. is when you should be more vigilant.

Start Hydrated

Many people simply do not like the taste of water and might wait until exercising creates some thirst for them to drink. Instead, medical professionals recommend hydrating before exercise. It’s a good idea to drink a few cups of water beforehand. If you dislike the taste of water, then beverages or even fruits can also prove helpful. However, try to avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeine.

Take Shaded Breaks

Sometimes being out in the sun at high noon is unavoidable. When this is the case, seek out shaded areas to retreat to whenever possible. This might include trees, gazebos or even on the shaded side of a building or vehicle. Whenever possible, you could also bring a beach umbrella or another temporary structure to provide well-needed shade. Consider taking your breaks indoors if you cannot find shade outside.

Wear the Right Clothes

What you wear can have a significant effect on how well your body copes with the heat. It can even affect how comfortable you feel. Wear light-colored and lightweight clothing that repels sweat and breathes. Cotton is an excellent choice for this. 

Your socks and shoe choices are also important as they, too, need to allow ventilation. Finally, consider sunglasses and a hat.

Protect Your Skin

When you wear sunblock, it does more than protect your skin from harmful UV rays. The North Myrtle Beach Public Safety website also alleges that it keeps the body cooler. When the sunblock keeps UV rays at bay, it provides some resistance to the heat. The website also notes that sunburned skin is more difficult to keep cool. This might result from heightened sensitivity.

Find a Companion

Chances are that you aren’t the only person in your family or social circle trying to enjoy the great outdoors or get some exercise in. Finding someone to join you can not only make the experience more enjoyable but also safer. Should you begin to experience symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, that person can rush to your aid or contact medical personnel.

Signs of Heat Stroke

One of the worst consequences of not staying cool during hot days is heat stroke. This results from your body overheating after over-exertion, exposure to hot temperatures or a combination of both. Not surprisingly, people are at greatest risk for this heat injury in the summer months.

If you or someone you know begins to experience any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention:

  • Shallow, rapid breathing
  • Body temperature higher than 104 °F
  • Confusion and/or irrational behavior
  • Weak but rapid pulse
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizures

Signs of Heat Exhaustion

Before a person suffers heat stroke, they generally begin to show signs of heat exhaustion. Mayo Clinic warns that heat exhaustion worsens in humid climates, especially when paired with exertion. Subsequently, it’s important to catch these symptoms at the start:

  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Skin that is cool or moist to the touch
  • Dark urine
  • Headaches
  • Weakness

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, you might need to seek medical attention. For less severe cases, you might only need to hydrate and seek shade. If you are exercising or otherwise moving around, take a break. You can then cool down by getting to an air-conditioned area, moving close to a fan, or by using cool compresses and wet cloths.

The Bottom Line

It is possible to still work out and enjoy the warm weather even when you have heart conditions. However, your life depends on taking the right steps to ensure you stay happy, healthy and hydrated. By involving your health care professional in your fitness journey, you have a better chance of ensuring all three.

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