Love The Summer Heats? Don’t Let It Get To Your Heart
With July slated as Earth’s hottest month ever recorded (yes, in history!), temperatures are showing no signs of slowing down, even as we approach the end of the summer. Running, biking, tennis, and hiking are great ways to keep your heart healthy, but it’s important to adjust your approach to physical activity during the hot summer months, and slow things down when the temperature heats up.
When temperatures rise, your body has to work extra hard to keep you cool, and as Harvard Health explains, it does this through a combination of radiation and evaporation. But whether it’s the redirection of increased blood flow to the skin’s surface to help radiate heat, or the loss of sodium, potassium, and essential minerals through the evaporation of sweat, the extra toll these processes take on the heart can spell trouble if you become overheated. Increased cardiovascular stress can lead to heatstroke and worse, especially if you throw exercise into the mix, or are already compromised by age or heart health issues.
According to Cleveland Clinic, our hearts speed up about 10 beats per minute for every degree our internal body temperature climbs. And if you exercise in the heat, not only does your heart have to ramp up its efforts to keep you cool, it also has to work harder to carry the extra blood and oxygen that your muscles need for fuel. Increased blood flow to the skin, coupled with dehydration, can be enough to cause your blood pressure to drop and dizziness and loss of balance to set in.
So whether you’re working out, or just hanging out, here are some of the ways you can beat the heat, and be good to your heart when outdoor temperatures soar:
Reduce your pace or postpone your outdoor activity altogether when the heat is on, especially if the temperature crawls above 80 degrees. If you simply must get out, choose the early morning or evening hours when things are generally cooler, to get that workout in.
Drink More Water
It’s important to stay extra-hydrated in the peak of the heat, especially if you exercise. Drinking 8-12 ounces of water (not soda, fruit juice, or coffee) about half an hour before you work out, and another 6-12 ounces for every 30 minutes of exercise you do, will help to keep your body from overheating.
Skip the spandex and long-sleeved workout wear in favor of clothing that makes it easier for your body to cool itself through the evaporation of sweat. Loose-fitting cotton apparel is best, along with a wide-brimmed hat.
Keep Your Cool
It’s a great idea to while away the heat of the day in a chilled air environment, whether it’s an air-conditioned gym, or the local movie theater or shopping mall. And for a quick cooling fix at home, try a cool shower or bath, or apply an ice pack or cold, damp cloth to the armpits or groin area.
You should always be on the lookout for symptoms of heat illness in the hot summer months, including fatigue, nausea, headache, confusion, and increased heart rate. If you know your personal heart numbers, taking advantage of a device like MOCAheart can help you to spot early warning signs of heart distress. If you do experience symptoms of overheating, you should seek out shade or air conditioning as soon as possible, and keep yourself well hydrated.