Heat Waves and Heart Disease

SYoung Health Guide
  • Over the past three weeks the Washington, DC, area has been engulfed in some of the hottest weather on record. While I normally prefer hot weather to the 15"-20" inches of snow we endured this past winter, even this extreme heat has been a bit much for me - especially when I looked at the digital temperature gauge in my truck last week and it read 112, that was a tad ridiculous!!

     

    While most can deal with the hot weather by drinking lots of liquids and wearing appropriate clothing and sunscreens, people with cardiovascular issues need to be especially careful.

     

    In extreme heat like the one that we've been experiencing over the past few weeks, the body's attempts to dissipate heat can become overwhelmed, and if this happens the body's temperature begins to rise. The increase in body temperature, along with the dehydration and electrolyte imbalances that most often accompany it, produces heat illness. For people suffering from cardiovascular disease, drugs that are used in treating heart disease can make it difficult for the body to dissipate excess heat when temperatures are very high, and thus, can cause such heat illnesses as heat stroke - a potential fatal illness. These cases are especially true for people taking beta blockers and diuretics, because of how they function in treating heart disease. Additionally, the added stress on the heart can cause irreparable damage to the heart's tissue.

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    In these "dog days" of summer we should all take precautions when being out in the sun. Drinking lots of liquids (especially water); replacing salts in your body (drinking specialty sports drinks such as Gatorade helps replace badly needed electrolytes); wearing light textured and colored clothing; protecting the head and eyes with a hat and a pair of sunglasses; and trying to limit outdoor exercise to early mornings or evenings when the strength of the sun is weaker.

     

    If you are a heart patient or suffer from cardiovascular disease, during these extreme days it is probably best to hang indoors and stay cool. If you are out and about during the hottest hours of the day, make sure to use common sense and stay away from hot foods, things like sodas and coffee (they all contain caffeine a powerful diuretic), take frequent breaks, and bring a buddy along to help out should you be overwhelmed by the heat.

Published On: July 13, 2010