How You Can Take Care of Your Heart Health in a Heat Wave, According to Cardiologists
As temperatures rise this summer, it's important to be vigilant about protecting yourself from the heat. For elderly folks, those with pre-existing heart conditions and people who are overweight, the American Heart Association says that a heat wave is more than just uncomfortable—it can also be hazardous.
A 2020 study in Circulation, the American Heart Association's flagship journal, found that deaths from cardiovascular disease occur more often in extreme heat. Because your body tries to cool itself down by moving blood underneath the skin, your heart has to work hard to keep your blood pumping. Even the work your body puts into sweating can be an extra burden on your cardiovascular system.
But there's good news: everyone can reduce their risk of heat stroke and heat exhaustion by taking five easy steps toward staying safe in the summer sun.
Avoid going out in the early afternoon.
The sun is high in the sky around noon, so the experts suggest avoiding outdoor activity between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m., when the day starts heating up and shade is harder to find. If you don't have an air conditioner, consider taking a cool bath during the hottest hours of the day, or visiting with a neighbor who has air conditioning.
Dress as coolly as possible.
Lightweight, breathable fabrics in light colors will go a long way to keeping you cool—exercise clothes made with moisture-wicking fabrics are also a good choice. You want to stay as shaded as possible, so consider adding a sun hat or baseball cap to your outfit for a little extra relief from the heat. (Try something like this Fast and Free Women's Run Hat: $38 from Lululemon).
We know you've heard this one before, but it's still true! Drinking water throughout the day will help you manage your heat level and support your heart. Harvard Medical School suggests asking your doctor how much water you should drink each day, but a daily intake of 91 ounces for men and 125 ounces for women is a great place to start. To make things easy, grab a big water bottle like this Kinto Lightweight Water Bottle with Silicone Strap, which is perfect for sipping on the go. (buy it: $25, Food52).
You can also try to eat healthy foods with high water content, such as cucumbers, watermelon and strawberries, to keep your hydration level up.
Give yourself a break.
When the weather really heats up, experts agree that it's probably best to pass on outdoor exercising. Both the American Heart Association and Harvard Medical School suggest giving yourself some grace on particularly hot days, or heading indoors for your workout.
If you love your daily dose of outdoor cardio, wait until the cool of the evening—or wake up bright and early—for your jog around the neighborhood. Be sure to carry water with you and take regular breaks to prevent overheating.
Follow your normal medicine routine.
It's easy to be a little off-kilter on steamy days, but keeping up with the daily medications prescribed by your doctor is key to staying in tip-top shape. Follow your doctor's advice to set yourself up for a healthy summer day.