It is widely known that cardiovascular disease-induced deaths and risks increase dramatically during the winter season. Experts attribute this to the narrowing of heart blood vessels leading to less supply to the heart muscle. Also, there’s an inverse relationship between blood pressure and environmental temperature, putting stress on the heart.
However, not just winters, the sweltering heat of summer months can also puts the heart at an increased risk of heart attack and other complications, cardiologists warned.
Dr Anand Kumar Pandey, director and senior consultant-cardiology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, said, “During summer or excessively hot conditions, our cardiovascular system increases its effort to cool our body by radiating heat. Heat leads to enlarged blood vessels and lower blood pressure. So, the heart beats faster and harder. This situation can cause a serious problem to the heart. During the winter season, the cold causes blood vessels to contract, which can raise blood pressure, increasing the risk of a heart attack. As we see situations are different but excess hot or excess cold, are dangerous for heart health.”
“In summers, the heart is required to circulate blood 2-4 times more than the normal days. If the body is not cooled properly, then the chances are that the person might suffer a heat stroke, which may be fatal in some cases. Heatstroke can affect anyone, but people who suffer from heart disease are at greater risk,” added Dr Jagda Nand Jha, senior international cardiologist, associate professor, department of medicine, Noida International Institute of Medical Sciences. Stroke, heart attack and angina are some of the most common complications.
How are people with comorbidities affected?
While everyone must pay special attention to heart health during extreme heat conditions, people with comorbidities are at greater risk. “People who are already suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol levels and pre-existing heart conditions are immensely affected,” said Dr Ritwick Raj Bhuyan, director-adult cardiothoracic vascular surgery, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute.
Dr Jha said: “The most important comorbidities that affect heart health are renal insufficiency, diabetes mellitus, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, sleep disorders like obstructive and central apnea syndrome, and anaemia. So, if we will not keep our co-morbidities at check-in any season be it winter or summers, we are hampering our heart health.”
Explaining how diabetics get affected during summers, Dr Pandey said people with diabetes get dehydrated quickly as they lose too much water from their bodies. “If they are not drinking enough liquids, their blood glucose level increases and high blood glucose can make them urinate more, causing dehydration. It can damage blood vessels that may adversely affect heart health.”
Symptoms that you must not ignore
According to heart specialists, the following symptoms are indications of compromised heart health during summers. Dr Bhuyan said, “Heart assault signs and symptoms may well differ from person to man or woman depending on the fundamental trigger. According to The American Heart Association, there are some major extended indicators that should under no circumstances be overlooked. Alternatively, these symptoms want to be dealt with at the earliest.”
*Heaviness of the chest
*Difficulty in breathing
*Increase in heartbeat (palpitations)
*Swelling in feet
*Pain in the hand
*Pain in the jaws
*Excessive gastritis not relieved by usual gas pills
*Sudden episode of fainting
“If you find any heat-related problems, go to a cool place and drink cool water because it is the most important thing to do at this stage. If symptoms persist, call the doctor or go to the hospital with an emergency facility,” Dr Pandey suggested.
Lifestyle tips to follow
To take care of your heart health during summers, “If you are planning on participating in vigorous exercise and aren’t used to it or are taking up a new sport, make an appointment with your doctor to get checked out thoroughly and get his or her approval. While outdoors – or indoors without air conditioning – during warm or humid weather, drink plenty of water. That means a minimum of eight 8 glasses a day, even if you don’t feel thirsty, and more if you are exercising or doing something active. Avoid being in the sun during the hottest time of day, which is smart for skin cancer prevention, too. Protect infants and children with a congenital heart conditions from overheating: Keep them in air conditioning when it is hot outside, dress them in light layers and make sure they drink enough water (at least six to eight 8 glasses a day for kids over age 5 and teens),” Dr Bhuyan suggested.
Dr Jha suggested the following lifestyle measures in the hot season
*When exercising, don’t overdo it, being moderate is key – The body temperature rises in the summer and the heart has to work harder, any strenuous action may necessitate a faster blood pump. So, overdoing exercise can risk your heart.
*Keep your body hydrated – Some heart patients may be on water restriction but this should be lifted a little during the summer months to ensure that the body maintains a consistent temperature.
*Avoid alcohol and caffeine – Caffeine and alcohol lead to dehydration.
*Balanced diet is a key to a healthy heart – Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, pulses, lentils, and legumes are all good choices. Junk, spicy, oily, canned, and processed foods should be avoided.
*Keep in touch with your doctor – Due to increased pressure on the heart, patients with coronary heart disease may experience angina and require oxygen throughout the summer. To avoid heart failure risks, staying in touch with the doctor will be the best.
Nutritional requirements for heart health during summers
Apart from hydration, medications, exercise and other lifestyle factors, you also need to pay a special focus to your nutrition and diet this season, experts shared.
*Reduce the amount of saturated and trans fats in your diet.
*Increase your fruit and vegetable consumption.
*Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables – Red peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, purple plums, green celery, lettuce, and kiwis, as well as yellow peppers and bananas.
*Increase fibre intake.
*Instead of animal protein, choose plant proteins.
*Avoid sugar, desserts and sweet products.
*Choose dairy products that are low in fat or fat-free.
“Aim for a combined seven-nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day as they provide a variety of antioxidants, b-vitamins, dietary fibre and a host of additional plant chemicals known to help prevent disease,” Dr Bhuyan said.