We’re in the thick of summer now, with temperatures hitting triple digits in many parts of the country. For some, this means pool parties and barbecues. However, hot temperatures are often anything but carefree. In an effort to emphasize the impacts of heat on your cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association has deemed July “Summer Heart Health Month”.
July tends to be one of the hottest months of the year, and with the mercury at an annual high, so are the chances of poor summer heart health. The heart has to pump harder to initiate sweating, which acts as a cooling response for the body. So, as the heart pumps harder, it also tires itself more quickly.
To avoid heat-related cardiovascular disease, it’s best to mind these practical but helpful practices for optimal heart health in the summer.
Keep outdoor activities minimal
Cardio exercise is essential to your heart health, but activities like jogging, bicycling, or even walking are not necessarily suitable for hot weather. The negative impacts of the high temperatures can suddenly outweigh the benefits of your cardio exercise, especially if you’re working out when the sun is at its strongest from noon to 3 p.m.
Instead, opt for some indoor cardio. Hit the gym, run on the treadmill, or do some high-intensity interval training exercises like burpees and mountain climbers at home.
And, if you do have some mandatory outdoor tasks to do, like manual labor or gardening, make sure to take it slow and steady (and keep your water bottle nearby) — which brings us to our next point.
The only thing that can spur on heart problems quicker than the heat is dehydration. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, make sure to replenish your body with water. This is especially essential if you’ve had caffeine or sugary beverages, as these can behave as diuretics and dehydrate your body even further.
Dehydration strains your heart, as it decreases the amount of blood circulating through your body, causing your heart to beat faster. This leads to palpitations and dizziness, symptoms that can be especially concerning for individuals with diabetes and existing heart problems.
Consider choosing water with electrolytes as well. Sodium, potassium, and magnesium can regulate bodily functions and regulate your heart beat.
Avoid smoke & smog
This one might be difficult if you live in an urban area, which is why spending as much time indoors as possible might come in handy. Smog tends to settle when it gets hot in urban areas, leaving a hazy layer of toxic gases to hover over where you live. It also doesn’t help that the summer heat speeds up the chemical reactions that create pollution.
According to Harvard Health, poor air quality can trigger heart attacks, strokes, and irregular heartbeat. This is even more dangerous in humid areas.
Smoke from wildfires can also trigger the aforementioned symptoms. After the recent wildfires that ravaged the California landscape, emergency room heart attack visits increased by 42 percent.
Take regular breaks
The best prevention method is rest, especially if you can’t avoid being outside in the heat all day. If you find yourself experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, it’s best to go indoors right away. Symptoms might include:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Confusion and/or disorientation
Individuals with pre-existing heart conditions are even more vulnerable to heat exhaustion, so they should be especially mindful of it. Elderly individuals and individuals with high blood pressure are also at risk. By heading indoors and staying hydrated, you can regulate your body temperature and stay cool.
Remember that this doesn’t mean you should avoid the summer warmth altogether. Everyone deserves some fun in the sun, and vitamin D has been shown to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. So, go ahead and soak in the sun — just do so moderately and responsibly.