High environmental temperatures and humidity are uncomfortable for most of us, but for those with heart disease, they can be deadly. The heart responds to a rise in temperature by a faster pumping and dilation of blood vessels of the skin. This favours heat loss.
Moderate exercise may result in up to tenfold increase in heat production with a resultant rise in heart rate. Strenuous physical effort in hot and humid weather may be particularly deleterious in heart disease.
Effects of Hot or Humid Weather on Heart Disease Patients
Low threshold for heart attack
Aggravation of heart failure
Heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias)
Keep Your Cool
Overall, individuals with heart disease should follow the same guidelines as healthy individuals, but with an extra helping of precaution:
Stay inside during the hottest part of the day.
If your home isn't air conditioned or air cooled, try to find someplace in the house that is the coolest, for example, the basement.
Limit your activity.
Wear loose-fitting, light cotton clothing.
Stay hydrated and avoid caffeine and alcohol.
Have someone check in on you.
How To Keep Your Heart Cool in the Summer Heat
Loose fitting, lightweight, light-colored cotton clothing is essential to managing the heat in the summer.
While working in Sydney I noticed the Australian campaign of Slip-Slop-Slap:
Slip on a full sleeved loose shirt, slop on some sunscreen to protect from skin cancer, and slap on a hat – this is a very sensible one and useful for heart patients too.
Apart from this, follow these steps:
Your body needs more water in hot weather.
Fans, cross ventilation and cool baths are essential.
If you have heart disease CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR for advice on how much water you should drink
Curtail unnecessary physical activity.
Avoid overly spiced or hot foods and heavy meals.
Keep an eye on your salt intak.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
If you live alone, make sure a relative or neighbor checks on you regularly.
However summer does not mean the end of your exercise activities.
It's best to plan your exercises early in the morning before the day heats up, or in the evening, when things start to cool down.
If the weather is too unbearable, though, head indoors.. Take up an indoor sport, like badminton, table tennis, indoor aerobics, or yoga. When it's really hot out, swimming is the best exercise . So, enjoy the summers, but stay cool.
(Dr.Harinder Singh Bedi is the Director, Cardiovascular, Endovascular, & Thoracic Sciences, Mohali, Punjab and the former President of the Venous Association of India (VAI).)