family on the beach

The hot summer months can take a toll on the heart. A Loma Linda University Health heart specialist provides tips to stay heart smart in the heat weather.

The summer months call for more outdoor activities, whether it is fun with friends and family or finding a new outdoor hobby to stay fit. However, with the presence of hot temperatures also comes the risk of affecting your heart health.

Loma Linda University International Heart Institute heart specialist, Purvi Parwani, MD, says that while our body functions best at a certain temperature, when that temperature rises, our bodies will adjust. One of the main ways the body adjusts is through sweating. Sweating allows our body to shed extra heat and cool down.

Parwani says there are other ways the body adjusts to heat that can be detrimental to the heart.

“Heat also causes the body to increase the size of our blood vessels,” Parwani adds. “This makes our hearts work harder. This can be dangerous if we do not find ways to cool down quickly.”

Parwani wants to make sure that people are heart safe this summer. Here are a few facts she wants patients to keep top of mind that can affect the heart when basking in the summer sun: 

  1. Certain medications affect the heart during the summer. Certain medications a person may be taking can cause them to become more dehydrated during the summer months. For example, some blood pressure medications slow the heart rate, which can make it difficult for the body to produce sweat or can stop the body from losing heat. There is a similar issue for patients with high blood pressure who take diuretics, also known as water pills. Water pills move water out of the body, and during the summer months, this can cause a patient to become dehydrated quickly. If you are currently using medication for a medical condition, Parwani advises you meet with your physician to come up with a plan that will keep you safe during the summer months.
  2. There is a perfect time to exercise. If fitness is a priority for you, find the right time for outdoor workouts. Parwani suggests doing outdoor exercises early in the morning or late in the evenings. Switching outdoor workouts to indoor also work to stay cool. 
  3. Be prepared for outdoor activities during the day. You might not be working out, but you may be attending an outdoor event or gathering. Parwani says to take frequent breaks and head back into the air conditioning where it is cool when you have to be outside for prolonged periods of time. She also recommends staying hydrated and keep foods on hand that are lighter on the stomach.
  4. Know the signs of heat stroke. Above all, a heat stroke can happen to anyone at any time. Knowing how to recognize it within yourself or someone else can save a life. Parwani says many of her patients are surprised at what some of the common symptoms are. A heat stroke can appear as the following: fatigue, muscle cramps, cold clammy skin, nausea, headache and low blood pressure eventhough your pulse feels fast. If you feel any of these symptoms, move indoors quickly until they subside.

If any of these heat stroke symptoms appear when you are not in the sun, feel free to schedule an appointment with a heart specialist who can partner with you and your concerns. Visit the LLU International Heart Institute’s website or call 1-800-468-5432.