It’s full blown summer here in Texas and the Houston heat is killer! No exaggeration! Summertime is a great time to get out and enjoy the weather, but the heat also possesses significant danger to your health and, more importantly, for your heart health. Heat exposure can cause a variety of health problems, including heat stroke, heart attack, and death. In this blog post, we will discuss the dangers of summer heat on heart health and what you need to know to stay safe during your fun in the sun.
Dangers and Risks of Heat Exposure
As according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 65,000 Americans visit an emergency room for acute heat illness each summer and more than 600 individuals die as a result of heat-related illnesses that are preventable. People with chronic medical problems, such as heart disease, are more likely to suffer from heat-related illnesses since their bodies may not be able to keep their temperatures steady. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and hyperthermia are the most common illnesses related to heat exposure.
According to a 2016 Environmental Protection Agency study of heat-related fatalities, high temperatures may be a factor in many more deaths than are recognized by officials. “By studying how daily death rates vary with temperature in selected cities, scientists have found that extreme heat contributes to far more deaths than the official death certificates might suggest,” the report said. “This is because the stress of a hot day can increase the chance of dying from a heart attack, other heart conditions, or respiratory diseases such as pneumonia.”
How the Heart Responds to Summer Heat
The human body has two methods for releasing this excess heat, radiation and evaporation, and both of these methods put added strain on the heart.
In this process, blood flow is redirected towards the skin to keep the body’s core temperature lower. This makes the heart beat faster and pump with greater force. On a hot day, it may circulate twice to four times as much blood each minute as on a cool one.
When you sweat, your body is releasing excess heat through evaporation and in turn the sweat evaporates and cools down the body. This process also uses a lot of energy and can lead to dehydration, which in turn puts added strain on the heart.
Both of these processes require the heart to pump blood at a higher rate in order to circulate the blood throughout the body and help regulate temperature. The added strain on the heart can cause problems for those who already have heart conditions or are at risk for developing heart problems.
How to Stay Safe in the Houston Summer Heat
Before rushing outdoors this summer to tackle that yard work or pound the pavement in your favorite running shoes, here are some precautions to keep in mind that will keep your heart from over-working.
Beat the Summer Heat – Time your outdoor activities to avoid the hottest hours of the day. Early morning and later in the evening are the best times to beat the heat.
Take Breaks – If you must be outdoors, take frequent breaks in the shade or indoors to cool down and avoid overheating.
Wear Appropriate Clothing – Dress for the heat by wearing light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting and breathable clothing.
Chill Out – Air conditioned air is the most effective way to lower your body temp. When the ambient temperature is high, a fan does little to cool the body.
Hydrate properly – Drink water or electrolyte beverages but avoid caffeine and overly sugary drinks.
Importance of getting an EKG (ECG)
If you have heart disease or are at risk for heart disease, summer heat can put you at a higher risk for having a heart attack. It is important to get an EKG (electrocardiogram) before participating in any outdoor activities this summer. An EKG can detect any abnormal heart rhythms that may be triggered by the heat. If you have any heart conditions or are concerned that you might, be sure to talk to your doctor.
The summer heat can be dangerous for your heart health. Heat stroke and dehydration are all risks to your heart health that you should be aware of this summer. Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, avoid the hottest part of the day, and get an EKG to get familiar with your heart health and identify any heart health conditions. Visit our website to schedule an appointment for your EKG test at A-Z Primary Care and Walk-In in Spring, Texas and get your heart health on track.
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Spring, TX 77388
Monday – Thursday
8:00am – 4:00pm
LOCATION UPDATE! We are still located in the same building however we have recently moved our clinic to the rear parking lot entrance. If you have any trouble finding us please call our office at (281) 801-4286.