Heart Failure and Heat: Taking Care of Yourself in the Summer
In Arizona, the heat can crash and settle like a blistering wave on the state, with temperatures ranging in the hundreds. Even for people with no health issues, this can cause problems, including dehydration and heat exhaustion. That can get even worse when you’re trying to manage congestive heart failure and have fluid intake limitations.
Cardiac Solutions in Peoria, AZ, knows how tricky it can be to achieve a steady balance when dealing with these issues because we see them in our patients every day. Here’s some information that should help you with heat and fluid intake while dealing with heart failure.
Why did the doctor limit my fluid intake?
It’s important to understand why your fluid intake has been limited with congestive heart failure so you understand how important it is to stick to it. When you have heart failure, your heart already struggles to meet the demands of your body, and an overabundance of fluids makes it even more difficult for it to pump adequately. In turn, having a weak heart can make your body retain more salt and fluids than you would otherwise, worsening the problem.
To help counteract this, your physician has likely prescribed a diuretic, also known as a water pill, to make it easier for your body to rid itself of salt and fluids. However, this isn’t always enough. Limiting your fluid intake makes sure that you don’t overload your heart and risk serious complications, such as a heart attack. Beyond drinks, other foods that contain liquid, such as soups and popsicles, count towards your daily liquid intake. While the prescribed daily fluids vary by patient, straying from your doctor’s recommendations even a little bit can lead to serious complications, which could cause hospitalization or even death.
Do I need to adjust my fluids in hot weather?
Hot weather can wreak havoc on your fluid specifications for several reasons. First and foremost, hot weather can worsen your congestive heart failure by putting additional strain on your heart and circulatory system, which play large parts in the body’s ability to cool itself. Since your heart is weaker, it won’t be able to do this effectively. Thus, with heart failure, you’re more susceptible to conditions such as heat stroke, dehydration, and heat exhaustion.
On top of this, sweating due to heat allows your body to rid itself of more salt and water than it usually does, but when you combine this with your limited fluids and water pills, it can lead to dangerous deficiencies in fluids and salt levels.
With all of this in mind, it’s important to discuss your concerns with your physician or cardiologist. Your fluid levels will likely have to be adjusted to account for what will be lost due to sweating, which may take some trial and error to figure out.
Things to watch out for
Since you’re more susceptible to heat-related conditions, don’t expose yourself to too much heat or for too long. Stay within your fluid limitations until you see your physician, and if you get thirsty but can’t drink anymore, try eating a piece of hard candy or sucking on a piece of frozen fruit. Signs and symptoms of heat sicknesses include:
- Cool skin
- Dark urine
- High fever
- Irrational behavior
- Uncharacteristic or extreme confusion
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid, weak pulse
- Seizures and unconsciousness
If you experience any of the last six symptoms, these are signs of heat stroke and you should seek medical attention immediately. The other symptoms indicate heat exhaustion, which can still be very serious if you’re not able to get it under control.
While summer should be a time for fun, you should speak with your doctor or cardiologist about the realities of your congestive heart failure. We at Cardiac Solutions want you to know what to expect, what to look out for, and what to do to take care of yourself and your heart in the heat.
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Peoria • Sun City • Glendale • Our Newest Location – Phoenix Southwest Valley
Main Office Number 623-876-8816
Office Hours: 8:00am-4:30pm, M-F
Citations: https://www.wkhs.com/heart/services/diagnostic-tests/echocardiogram-(cardiac-ultrasound), http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/DiagnosingaHeartAttack/Echocardiogram—Echo_UCM_451485_Article.jsp#.WrNH8i7waCg, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2170493/