The summertime might mean fun vacations to the beach, outdoor adventures, and backyard barbeques, but it can also be a dangerous time for your heart. More than 600 people in the United States die each year from extreme heat.
Hotter temperatures are known to put a strain on our cardiovascular health. This is especially true for the elderly and those with compromised health conditions.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to stay safe and still have fun this season. We’ve created a list of easy tips to help you stay healthy and active all summer long!
- Hydration is Key
When our bodies are exposed to extreme, prolonged heat, they become even more susceptible to heat-related illnesses. This is often due to the cardiovascular system being unable to thermoregulate your internal body temperature.
Studies show that in extremely high temperatures, the rate of cardiovascular deaths can double or triple. In extreme heat, your heart has to work harder to cool your body down. It does this by pumping blood from major organs to your skin.
When you hydrate and drink water, you are making it easier for your heart to move the blood through your body. Even if you don’t think you’re thirsty, it’s important to drink water when in hotter climates.
Drinking water before, during, and after going out into the heat ensures you remain hydrated. Plus, it’s more effective to drink water in short intervals than a lot of water all at once. Drink one cup of water every 15-20 minutes for the best results.
- Stay In the Clear
Monitor how often you’re using the restroom. You should be urinating regularly. Having clear urine is a good sign that you’re hydrated. Avoid alcoholic drinks, soda, and caffeine (including energy drinks) which can cause dehydration.
Drinking too much water (or liquids) can have a dangerous effect. Never drink more than one and a half quarts (48 oz) of water per hour. This can cause overhydration and result in the concentration of salt in your blood being too low and electrolyte imbalances (hyponatremia) — which can cause a medical emergency.
- Gear Up and Dress Appropriately
Another way to protect yourself from the hot summer temps is by dressing for the heat. You can do this by wearing breathable materials that are lightweight and light in color. Don’t forget to put on a hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from harsh UV rays.
A portable, hands-free fan and spray bottle, to mist yourself, are great ways to stay cool no matter where your summer adventures take you. An umbrella is also useful to create shade wherever you go.
Don’t leave your house without applying broadspectrum sunblock with at least 15 SPF. Be sure to reapply every two hours if you plan to be outside — or right after sweating, swimming, or toweling off. You can purchase travel sunscreen bottles with a carabiner clip on them. Simply attach it to your bag and you’re good to go!
- Don’t Push It
It’s best to take plenty of breaks during the hot summer months. From about noon to 3 p.m., the sun is at its strongest. This is a good time to take a break and go indoors or rest in the shade.
There’s no reason to push yourself and risk your health. It’s easy to underestimate the effects that the heat has on our bodies. So set up a timer on your phone so you’re reminded to hydrate and cool down regularly.
Certain medications can affect your body’s ability to cool down and respond to heat. Talk to your doctor about possible heat-related side effects that your medication may have.
- Staying Cool & Active
It is possible to enjoy the summer months with your friends and family while also staying cool. Being active and getting plenty of exercise is still important to your health. Even if it’s too hot for some activities, find ways to exercise by either swimming or hitting up the gym indoors.
You can also use healthy snacks to stay cool before a workout. For example, frozen fruit smoothies, cold salads with fresh vegetables, or homemade popsicles are all nutritious options.
- Signs of Heat Exhaustion
Even if you’re being careful, there’s always a risk of heat exhaustion during the summer months. Make sure you’re familiar with the signs so you can spot them right away and get the help you need.
Some symptoms of heat exhaustion are headaches, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, dizziness or fainting. You may also feel cold, have chills, moist skin, or sweat heavily. Your pulse could be weak or rapid with fast, shallow breathing.
Signs of a heat stroke are similar and include throbbing headaches, fever, nausea, vomiting, a strong and rapid pulse, confusion and even unconsciousness. If you or someone you know start to show signs of either heat exhaustion or heat stroke, stop exercising right away, use water to cool down and call 9-1-1 immediately.
There’s no reason to let the heat stop you from having fun this summer. We hope you found these tips helpful for staying safe all season long! It’s always a good idea to get a complete check-up to ensure you’re in the best health possible.
Ready to take action toward better health this summer for you and your family? Let us help you get there by scheduling an appointment here.