When a person’s body temperature rises above its normal 98.1 degrees Farenheit, the body tries to cool itself down by sweating and dilating blood vessels. Due to the increased blood vessel size, the heart beats at a faster rate and blood pressure is lowered. For those with heart conditions, the faster heart rate may cause serious problems, or even death, if the heart cannot handle the situation. People with heart failure have to be especially careful as well, because the heart may not be able speed up or pump any harder than it already is. As a result, the body would not be cooled down sufficiently, and could reach dangerous temperatures. In addition, many medications taken by those with heart conditions can cause other problems. For instance, a diuretic, taken to reduce fluid retention, can cause dehydration; and beta-blockers can limit how fast the heart can beat, reducing the body’s ability to cool down.
It is important to be able to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illness, especially for those with heart conditions. Some symptoms include dizziness, heavy sweating, muscle cramps, headaches, weakness and fainting. A person with any sort of heart condition or high blood pressure should seek medical attention if any of these symptoms are experienced. More drastically, if a person is experiencing heat stroke, the most severe heat-related illness, emergency treatment should be provided immediately. Symptoms may include high body temperature, rapid pulse, nausea, dizziness, throbbing headache, confusion and red, hot, dry skin. Anyone suffering from these symptoms should be cooled off immediately by being moved into the shade or immersed in cool water while waiting for emergency medical assistance to arrive.
The best thing a person with a heart condition can do during hot weather is to avoid overheating. It is recommended to stay inside during the hottest part of the day and seek air conditioning, wear loose, light clothing, limit activity, stay hydrated, and be sure to have someone check on you periodically. While these precautions are of extreme importance for a person with a heart condition, everyone should be careful during the heat of summer, as heat-related illness can affect anyone.