Surviving the Heat: Understanding the Risks to Your Heart

Deborah FarlowBlog

As the summer sun beats down relentlessly, it’s crucial to be aware of the dangers posed by extreme heat, especially if you have underlying heart conditions. Heatwaves not only test our endurance but also place significant stress on our cardiovascular systems, increasing the risk of heart attacks, cardiac arrest, and strokes. Understanding these risks and taking proactive steps before an adventure, such as investing in an AED and learning CPR/First Aid Training, can make all the difference in staying safe this summer.

Heart Conditions and Heat: A Dangerous Combination

Extreme heat affects everyone, but those with heart conditions are particularly vulnerable. Here’s why:

1. Increased Heart Rate and Blood Pressure: High temperatures cause our bodies to work harder to maintain a normal temperature. This can lead to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, placing added stress on the heart.

2. Dehydration: Sweating excessively in hot weather can quickly lead to dehydration, which reduces blood volume and makes the heart work even harder to pump blood through the body.

3. Electrolyte Imbalance: Sweating also depletes essential electrolytes like potassium and sodium, which are crucial for maintaining heart function.

4. Vasodilation: Heat can cause blood vessels to dilate, which may lead to a drop in blood pressure and a strain on the heart to compensate.

Understanding the Risks

Heart Attack: Heat increases the likelihood of a heart attack due to the added stress on the cardiovascular system and the strain placed on the heart.

Cardiac Arrest: The combination of dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and increased workload on the heart can trigger a sudden cardiac arrest, particularly in individuals with existing heart conditions.

Stroke: Heat can also lead to dehydration, which is a significant risk factor for stroke. Dehydrated blood is thicker and more likely to form clots, which can block blood flow to the brain.

Owning an AED is invaluable for cardiac arrest, heart attack, and stroke as it allows for rapid defibrillation to restore normal heart rhythms, provides clear CPR instructions for effective chest compressions, and bridges the critical gap between an emergency occurring and professional medical help arriving, significantly improving survival rates and reducing potential long-term complications. 

Precautionary Steps to Avoid Overheating

Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine, which can contribute to dehydration.

Stay Cool: Spend time in air-conditioned spaces during the hottest parts of the day. If you don’t have air conditioning at home, consider investing in a handheld fan to keep on you at all times, or visiting public places with cooler air, like a nearby coffee shop or shopping mall.

Dress Appropriately: Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing in light colours to reflect heat and sunlight.

Limit Physical Activity: Avoid strenuous activities during peak hours (usually midday to late afternoon). If you must exercise, try to keep it indoors or do so in the early morning or evening when it’s cooler outside.

Know the Signs: Be aware of symptoms of heat-related illness, such as excessive sweating, dizziness, nausea, and rapid pulse. Seek medical attention if you or someone else shows signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

As temperatures soar, it’s crucial to prioritize your heart health and take precautions against extreme heat. Whether you have a pre-existing heart condition or not, understanding the risks and being prepared with knowledge of CPR and First Aid Training, and tools like an AED, can make all the difference in staying safe and enjoying a healthy summer.

Stay cool, stay hydrated, and stay informed—your heart will thank you for it.