5 ways to protect your heart in extreme heat

With many areas of the country facing triple digit temperatures and summer heat and humidity elsewhere, the American Heart Association, a global force for longer, healthier lives for all, is urging people to take extra steps to protect their hearts. Precautions are especially important for older adults and individuals with high blood pressure, obesity or a history of heart disease and stroke.

Temperatures over 100 or even temperatures in the 80s with high humidity can cause a dangerous heat index that can be hard on the heart. Recent research published in Circulation, the flagship journal of the American Heart Association, found that when temperatures reach extremes of an average daily temperature of 109 degrees Fahrenheit, the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease may double or triple. Another study, featured at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference, suggests that the more temperatures fluctuate during the summer, the more severe strokes may become.

In hot weather, the body tries to cool itself by shifting blood from major organs to underneath the skin. This shift causes the heart to pump more blood, putting it under significantly more stress.

“If you’re a heart patient, older than 50 or overweight, the American Heart Association suggests you take special precautions in the heat to protect your heart,” said Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Sc.M., FAHA, the American Heart Association’s new volunteer president and chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

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