At first, the heat and humidity of summer can feel like a welcome reprieve from the freezing conditions of winter. As the temperature rises, though, new concerns come into play. The hotter it gets outside, the more we need to focus on hydration and sun protection. We also need to take precautions with exercise and overall heat safety. Good habits are especially important for those with a cardiovascular condition.
Why Your Heart may not Love the Heat
It doesn’t matter how much you love the warming sensation of the sun on your skin; your heart may have other ideas. The problem with heat is that the heart has to work harder to cool the body off in a hot environment. For example, if you’re working in the garden on an exceptionally warm day when the air around you is hotter than your average body temperature, your heart may circulate several times more blood than it would on a cool day.
The extra stress to beat faster and harder may be inconsequential for the healthy individual. In the presence of a heart condition, though, the increase in cardiovascular output can be dangerous.
Protecting Heart Health During the Heat of Summer
Understanding that heart conditions and even medications to treat them may increase heat responsiveness is valuable because it allows you to think ahead to create protective strategies as the weather changes. Some tips for summertime heart health include:
- Drink plenty of water. High temperatures deplete water in the body, leading to dehydration. If you have a heart condition, speak with your cardiologist about the amount of water you should be drinking every day. Balance is key. Too little, and you can get dehydrated; too much, and your electrolytes get thrown off. A general recommendation is to drink one glass of water per hour.
- Avoid extraordinary heat. Staying out of the direct sunlight and heat is beneficial for your skin and your heart. During peak heat hours of 10 am to 4 pm, stay indoors or in the shade as much as possible.
- Dress for heat. We naturally turn to shorts and tank tops in the summertime, which is an excellent way to protect your heart and your sense of comfort. Wearing light colors and lightweight clothing that allows air to flow through the fabric keeps the skin cooler, so the heart doesn’t have to work so hard.