Extreme heat during summer season can take a toll on your heart. People who have history of heart failure are even more at risk of health issues due to dehydration and salt loss. Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle is not able to pump blood well which results in fluid build-up in lungs and may cause shortness of breath. Leading a healthy lifestyle is recommended for people with heart failure history which includes regular exercise, reducing salt intake, managing stress among other things. (Also read: Can you get a heart attack by sitting for too long? Cardiologist on how to calculate risk, prevention tips)
“Aside from the increased heat, other factors that may have an impact on heart health include not eating a salt-restricted diet, excessive alcohol consumption, poor blood circulation, and the use of certain medications such as sedatives or diuretics in conjunction with blood pressure medications,” says Dr Prabhakar C Koregol, Consultant – Cardiac Sciences & Interventional Cardiology, Fortis Hospitals, Cunningham Road.
Dr Prabhakar says when the temperature and humidity are extreme during the summer, it causes increased blood flow to the skin, requiring the heart to beat at a faster rate, and causing the blood to circulate twice as fast per minute.
“Intense heat and constant sweating reduce the fluid content of the body, causing dehydration and putting strain on the heart. This, combined with blood pressure medications, may result in a significant drop in blood pressure, which along with a rapid heart rate are major risk factors for those who are predisposed to or have a history of cardiac problems,” says the cardiologist.
Tips for heart patients to stay healthy during intense heat:
– Avoid strenuous physical activity in hot weather – not even on balconies and terraces. Work out indoors.
– Caffeine and alcohol should be avoided.
– Wear light-coloured, breathable clothing (preferably cotton)
– Ensure proper airflow and maintain a cool environment by using air conditioning or fans
– Regularly check your blood pressure
– Consult your doctor if your blood pressure is high or low
– Sodium and potassium levels in the blood should be checked on a regular basis, depending on the symptoms
– Medication dosages may need to be reduced in elderly patients with a history of heart failure and high blood pressure
– Patients with a history of heart failure who consume very little water and salt should increase their water intake (by 250-500ml/day) and adjust their salt intake after consulting with their doctor.