SPOKANE, Wash. – Heat is hard on the heart.
The Inland Northwest is expecting to see hot temperatures throughout the rest of the week. The brutal heat wave gripping much of the country in recent weeks is unpleasant for everyone, even for those are healthier than most.
For people with cardiovascular trouble, hazy, hot, humid days can be dangerous.
Here are simple precautions that can ease the strain:
The human body releases extra heat in two ways that stress the heart. The first way is by radiation, meaning as long as the air around you is cooler than your body, the blood vessels near the surface of your skin can relax to help radiate away excess heat.
This transfer stops and the process no longer works when the air temperature approaches body temperature. The heart then has to beat faster and pump harder to reroute the blood so more of it goes to the skin.
Sweating also helps cool your body. Every molecule of sweat that evaporates from your skin also whisks away heat. This works well on dry days but when humidity levels climb the water vapor already in the air makes evaporation more difficult.
Sweat pulls more than heat from the body – it also removes minerals from your bloodstream that are needed to maintain healthy fluid balance, leading to low blood pressure.
Most healthy people tolerate weather changes without missing a beat. However, older people and people with damaged or weakened hearts might not respond well to the combination of extra work needed to increased blood flow to the skin and dehydration. The drop in blood pressure can push some people into trouble by causing dizziness or falls.
Summer's heat also speeds up smog and haze and smoke from wildfires may increase heart attack risk. According to a study in Journal of the American Heart Association, emergency room visits increased for breathing trouble , heart disease, irregular heart rhythms, heart failure, and stroke in northern and central California during the summer of 2015, when intense wildfires raged across the state.
Some simple choices can help you keep heat from over stressing your heart and spoiling your summer – take it easy during the hottest part of the day and stay cool. If you don't have an air conditioner, spending an hour or two in a movie theater, at an indoor mall or with an air-conditioned neighbor or community center.
Also, consider a cool shower or bath, or putting a cold, wet cloth or ice pack under your arm or at your groin. Fans work to a point. Sitting in front of blowing warm air is about as helpful as sitting in front of a blow dryer.
Eat light meals that don't overload your stomach. Cold soups, salads, and fruits can satisfy your hunger and give you extra fluid.
Most importantly, drink plenty of fluid. A glass of water every hour should keep you hydrated.
If wildfires occur near you and you're not evacuating, stay indoors with the doors and windows closed and run air conditioning.
The EPA does advise those with heart or lung conditions to consider staying with friends or family who live far away from the smoke If you take medication for heart failure or high blood pressure, especially diuretics, ask your doctor if you should adjust your dose on days you plan to be outside in the heat.
Heat stroke and exhaustion can both be mistaken for the flu. If you think you are having heat related problems or see the signs in someone else call your doctor or go to the emergency room.