The current summer 2012 heat wave may be enjoyable and relaxing for some.  But others should take extra precaution against the extreme heat. Those that are at risk for heart attacks should protect themselves from extreme hot temperatures because to avoid excess stress on your heart.

The hot temperatures create triggers in unknowing heart patients that can lead to a heart attack and to potentially dangerous heat-related illness, such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heart Attacks in Heat Wave

Sweating is our body’s attempt to regulate internal body temperature when the air is hot. Sweating disperses heat, but it also puts added stress on your heart decreasing the amount of blood. If you suffer from heart disease, the

danger of your heart over working to pump decreased amount of blood through your body creates a the risk of suffering from serious cardiac events, such as a heart attack.

In addition to the threat of a heart attack,  your body may not be able to dissipate the heat in extreme hot temperatures, resulting in hyperthermia. This, in combination with dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, can result in heat-related illness:

  • Heat rash
  • Heat cramps
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Heat stroke. If left untreated, heat stroke can be fatal.

Cardiogenic shock can also occur when the body becomes over-heated. The heart becomes weak and cannot pump enough blood to the rest of the body. This can cause multi organ failure, trigger a heart attack or can result in sudden cardiac death.

Heart disease medications, if you are taking them, leave you more vulnerable to heat-related illness.  Beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers and diuretics, make it difficult for your body to disperse excess heat when the temperatures are scorching, thus increasing the danger of heart problems leading to death.

Please talk to your doctor to adjust heart disease medication during the hot summer months.

Preventing Heart Attacks

People suffering from heart disease should take extra precaution to protect their heart during extreme hot weather.

  • The top heart attack prevention tip is to stay in a cool environment.

If you have to be outdoors,

  • Choose areas that are shaded. Avoid being outdoors during peak heat times (usually early afternoon).

If you are exercising,

  • Opt to exercise indoors. Exercising outdoors during high temperature will create more heat than your body is able to dissipate.

Additionally, stay hydrated to prevent dehydration. Drinking water and avoiding caffeinated beverages is a vital step for heart attack prevention.

Here are a number of other heart attack prevention measures that you should take, regardless of temperature, including:

  1. Controlling diabetes
  2. Controlling high blood pressure
  3. Exercising regularly
  4. Eating a healthy, nutritious diet
  5. Maintaining a healthy weight
  6. Managing stress
  7. Stopping smoking

By following the general heart attack prevention steps above and by taking additional precautions during extreme hot weather, your chances of suffering a heart attack during a heat wave will be minimized.

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