Heat: protects the heart and brain
The current summer heat is causing problems for many people. High temperatures not only cause symptoms such as fatigue and headaches, they also put a strain on our cardiovascular system and increase the risk of diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. Experts explain how the heart and brain can be protected.
Many people are unaware of the health risks that heat can cause. In a recent article on the American Heart Association’s “heart.org” portal, experts explain why caution is in order right now.
Stress test for the heart
Hot weather is like a stress test for your heart, says Dr. Lance Becker, president of emergency medicine at Northwell Health, a healthcare provider in New York City. And some people react very intensely to such stress.
“You could be having a heart attack. Your congestive heart failure symptoms could be getting worse. Or they could be having arrhythmia, which is the medical term for an irregular heartbeat.
The risks to the heart and brain can indeed be serious: A 2020 report (CDC; PDF) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites research showing that hospitalizations for cardiovascular problems in the days after high temperatures soared.
And a 2017 review of research in the American Heart Association’s Stroke journal concludes that hot temperatures appear to increase the immediate risk of clot-induced ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke.
People most at risk for heat-related problems
Thermoregulation in humans is generally a “pretty good mechanism”, according to Becker. But excessive heat can overwhelm it. And then it could be “very, very dangerous”.
Rachel M. Bond, director of women’s heart health at Dignity Health in Arizona, says anyone with a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, or obesity is at higher risk. heat-related problems.
And the CDC warns that people with diabetes may have damage to blood vessels and nerves that can affect their ability to cool themselves.
The post lists some information to help stay as safe as possible in the heat:
Know the Symptoms of Heat Fatigue: Signs of heat fatigue include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, and cold, clammy skin. It can be treated by removing yourself from the heat or by using a damp cloth to cool it down. If symptoms do not improve within an hour, see a doctor.
Heat stroke is more serious: Symptoms of heat stroke include a rapid heartbeat, a rise in body temperature over 40 degrees, and red, hot, dry skin. As Bond explains, this is a medical emergency that requires calling 911.
Drink plenty of water: Staying hydrated helps your heart pump more easily and helps your muscles work more efficiently, Bond says. The exact amount of fluid you need may vary. Bond generally encourages his patients to drink at least two liters a day.
Do not consume alcohol: Avoid alcohol, recommends Bond. It can dry you out.
Stay cool: For those without air conditioning, Becker recommends having a fan and a spray bottle or damp cloth.
“The combination of sitting right in front of a fan and then spraying a little water on your body or picking up a cold washcloth and putting some water on your body will help cool you down,” said the expert. “That’s actually one of the things we do with people in the ER.”
Medications: Due to the added strain on their system, heart patients need to be diligent in adhering to their medication prescriptions.
Some situations may require the help of a doctor. People with high blood pressure or heart failure can use diuretics to rid the body of excess fluid. But they may also need to increase their fluid intake to cope with the heat.
It’s a confusing situation, says Becker. “For this reason, we generally recommend that these people simply avoid heat stress because it is very difficult to manage properly.”
Pay attention to your diet: watermelons or cucumbers are ideal because they are waterlogged. Heavy meals should be avoided so as not to put too much strain on the body.
Watch your time – and your clothes: Bond and other medical professionals regularly remind people not to go outside in the early afternoon and encourage them to wear loose, lightweight and light-colored clothing.
Exercise, but don’t overdo it: Exercise is important for long-term health, even in hot weather. But if you can, do your training indoors or learn to swim. And don’t overdo it with sports.
Caring for Each Other: “It’s really a time for community spirit,” says Becker. Social isolation is a major cause of most of the heat-related deaths he sees.
He advises contacting neighbors, friends and relatives who are at risk. Say, “It’s going to be very hot. Can I help you ? » Invite her to hang out in an air-conditioned room. This behavior can help save lives. (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.
American Heart Association: 9 Ways to Protect Your Heart and Brain from Summer Heat, (accessed 2022-07-03), heart.org Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Heat Exposure and Cardiovascular Health: A Summary for Health Departments; (PDF), (published July 2020), Centers for Disease Control and PreventionPablo M Lavados, Verónica V Olavarría & Lorena Hoffmeister: Ambient Temperature and Stroke Risk: Evidence Supporting a Short-Term Effect at a Population Level From Acute Environmental Exposures; in: Stroke, (published: 2017-12-11), Stroke
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.