Hot, sticky humid days are uncomfortable for almost everyone. But when it comes to people with cardiovascular trouble, it can become not only uncomfortable, but also extremely dangerous. Understanding how your heart is affected in the heat is crucial and life-saving.
Considering nearly half of all adults have some form of a heart condition, understanding how one of your most important organs is affected in the heat is crucial and life-saving.
But first, it’s important to understand how the heart works.
Your heart is the main organ in your circulatory (cardiovascular) system. Electrical impulses travel down a pathway of fibers to trigger your heartbeats. As your heart beats, it begins to pump blood through elastic, muscular tissues that flow to every part of your body, carrying fresh oxygen. It also helps take away your body’s waste products from your tissues. A healthy heart is not only necessary to sustaining life, but key in promoting health to every bodily system.
So what happens in the heat?
As temperatures rise, your body disposes of heat in two different ways: radiation and evaporation.
Radiation reroutes blood flow to the surface of the skin which makes your heart beat faster, and pump blood harder. The heat in your system is trying to radiate out into cooler air. When the heat has nowhere to go, your body sweats to cool off and relieve yourself of heat.
Evaporation – or sweat – strains your cardiovascular system. But when the humidity is increased, the amount of water vapor in the air makes evaporation difficult. As sweat pulls heat from the body, it also removes sodium, potassium, minerals for muscle contractions, transmission of nerves, and water balance. Because of this, your body goes in overdrive to secrete hormones to help hold onto water and to counteract the loss of key minerals.
The excess strain can cause an array of difficulties.
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weak or rapid pulse
However, if you’re a person with a compromised heart and health, you’re at a greater health risk.
- Weakness from a heart attack can keep the heart from pumping enough blood to expel heat
- Damaged arteries can restrict blood flow
- Beta-blockers slow the heartbeat and inhibit the organ’s ability to circulate blood quick enough for heat exchange
- Some antidepressants and antihistamines can hinder evaporation
- Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and other conditions can limit the brain’s response to dehydration making it difficult to send thirst signals allowing for dehydration faster.
An impaired heart has a lower capacity for pumping blood, therefore needing to work harder to produce a cooling effect. Those with weakened hearts, older adults especially suffering from diabetes or obesity, and folks with chronic illnesses are at a greater risk to succumb to heat stroke.
What is a heat stroke?
A heat stroke is a condition caused by your body overheating, typically due to prolonged exposure and/or physical exertion in high heat. If it remains untreated, it can damage your heart, brain, kidneys and muscles increasing the risk of organ failure and even death. Heat stroke can happen over the course of only 10-15 minutes, or slowing, developing over several hours or days.
Symptoms of a heat stroke include:
- Flushed skin
- Rapid heart rate and breathing
- Nausea and vomiting
- Irrational behavior
How can in2GREAT help your heart mitigate the challenges of heat?
We are here to help you wherever you are at in your health journey. Our integrative approach is rooted in functional medicine, designed to more thoroughly learn about your current health and identify any root cause issues that could be putting a strain on your heart. If you’re feeling dehydrated or run down, our IV Nutrition Therapy delivers essential vitamins and minerals directly into your bloodstream, helping you replenish your body and recover quicker.
There are over 60,000 miles of blood vessels in your body.