It's definitely the dog-days of summer. With temps in the 90s and above across many areas of the country, many of us have been forced to move our workouts to the early morning or evenings — or entirely indoors — to get relief from the heat. But are you aware of how the heat can affect your heart even when you're not working out?
According to Alberto Montalvo, cardiologist at Bradenton Cardiology Center in Bradenton, Fla., your heart faces some pretty serious strain when the temps rise. To cool itself down, your body kicks on its natural-cooling system, which involves your heart pumping more blood and the blood vessels dilating to allow more blood flow. As the blood flows closer to the skin, heat escapes out of the skin to help cool the body. During this time, sweating also occurs, pushing water out of the skin so cooling can take place as the water evaporates. However, in areas where humidity is high, evaporation doesn't happen as easily, which prevents the body from properly cooling. For the body to do this, your heart may move up to four times more blood on a hot day than on a cooler one. Sweating can also stress the heart by depleting important minerals - such as sodium and chloride - needed to maintain a healthy balance of fluid in the bloodstream and brain.
So just how do you brave the heat safely for optimum heart health? Follow these tips from Montalvo.
Heart and Heat: Tips to Stay Safe
1. Avoid the hottest part of the day. If you have to be out, try to do so before or after noon to 4 p.m., when the temps are the highest.
2. Slow down. Your heart is already working harder, so when you are being active in the heat, be aware of how high your heart rate is. Listen to your body and slow down.
3. Dress right. When it's this hot, be sure to wear lightweight light-colored clothing. The lighter color reflects heat and sunlight, which helps to keep you cooler. Don't forgot the sunscreen either!
4. Drink up. Be sure to stay hydrated with water and electrolyte drinks. Avoid alcoholic beverages, as they dehydrate you and make your heart have to work harder!
5. Go inside. If you can work out inside, do so. Your heart will thank you
Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.