Hot Weather and Heart Disease: A Dangerous Combination


Heat plus heart disease can equal cardiac arrest

Summer is coming and temperatures are rising. People are spending more time outdoors. But is everyone equally safe outside when temps are high? People with Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) or congenital heart defects are at greater risk of cardiac arrest during periods of high or extreme heat. This is due to the heart’s inability to work harder to keep the body cool. Overexerting yourself when the weather is hot can lead to heat exhaustion and even heat stroke. Though heat exhaustion is relatively easy to treat, if untreated it can progress to heat stroke, can be dangerous and may require the need for CPR. Many medications prescribed for heart disease such as diuretics lower the volume of water in the body so it is important to speak to your doctor before spending a significant amount of time outdoors in extreme heat.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • Faintness or dizziness

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Heavy sweating often accompanied by cold, clammy skin

  • Weak, rapid pulse

  • Pale or flushed face

  • Muscle cramps

  • Headache

  • Weakness or fatigue

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

  • Fever of 104 F or greater

  • Changes in mental status or behavior, such as confusion, agitation, slurred speech

  • Hot, dry skin or heavy sweating

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Flushed skin

  • Rapid pulse

  • Rapid breathing

  • Headache

5 tips for staying safe in the heat if you have heart disease

Because you already have established heart disease, you are at higher risk for heat exhaustion or even life-threatening heat stroke when you are out in extreme temperatures. Here are 5 ways you can avoid putting yourself at risk.

  • Stay hydrated with sports drinks that contain electrolytes or drink plenty of water

  • Avoid rigorous physical activity outdoors

  • Wear the appropriate, light-weight clothing and make sure to apply sunscreen

  • Avoid caffeine

  • Stay indoors during early afternoon hours when the sun is at its strongest

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