The Heat and Your Heart

High summer temperatures can do more than make you sweat – they can dangerously impact your heart.  And if you are an individual over the age of 50, are overweight or a heart patient on medications, you should take extra precautions.  Additionally certain medications, may also exacerbate the body’s reaction to heat.  Medications like beta blockers, ace inhibitor, calcium channel blockers and diuretics.

Jose Mejia, MD, cardiologist with The Austin Diagnostic Clinic recommends the following precautions to protect your heart this summer:

  • Check with you doctor before beginning any exercise program.
  • Watch the clock. If you like to exercise or do outside activities in the summer, make sure to avoid the peak heat of the day between 12 noon to 4 pm.  Be aware of the heat index too.  Heat index is a combination of the temperature and humidity.  High heat indices can be dangerous for everyone.
  • Dress to keep cool. Hats, sunglasses, light colored and lightweight, breathable clothing will keep you cool.   Wicking fabrics in light colors are good too.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Even if you are not thirsty, drink water before going outside.  If you will be active for an extended period of time, take a water break every 15 to 30 minutes.  Avoid caffeine and alcohol, they can dehydrate you further.
  • Know the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat Exhaustion Symptoms

If you experience the symptoms below, stop your activity and move indoors or to a cooler location.  Use wet, cool cloths to cool down and seek medical attention if symptoms do not subside.

  1. Headache
  2. Cool, moist skin
  3. Dizziness and/or lightheadedness
  4. Weakness
  5. Nausea and/or vomiting
  6. Dark Urine

Heat Stroke Symptoms

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience the following:

  1. Fever (above 104 degrees)
  2. Dry, hot and red skin
  3. Irrational behavior
  4. Confusion
  5. Rapid, shallow breathing
  6. Rapid, weak pulse
  7. Seizures or unconsciousness

Individuals with chronic heart disease may need to exercise additional caution, but the heat should not be an excuse not to be active.  Get up early; enjoy a stroll around your neighborhood or local trails before the heat is unbearable, or walk your area mall.   Try a water activity (make sure to wear sunscreen) like swimming, stand up paddle or water aerobics to keep cool while being active.

Dr. Mejia reminds us that, “Summer is a treat, just remember to fight the heat.”


American Heart Association