Exasperating for many, intense heat and humidity leads to dehydration and salt-loss (Sodium and Potassium) causing a series of health concerns.
People with underlying cardiac issues also face a host of health problem during this season. Beyond the escalated heat levels, some of the other contributing factors that might impact heart health include not having a salt-restricted diet, increased alcohol intake, poor blood circulation, consumption of certain medications like sedatives or diuretics in combination with blood pressure medications, points out Dr Vivek Mahajan Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan & Mulund.
For patients with high blood pressure, when temperature and humidity is extreme during the summer, it causes added blood flow to the skin; the heart is then required to beat at a faster rate. This may cause the blood to circulate double the time per minute, Dr Mahajan informs.
"Intense heat and constant sweating lowers the fluid content in the body, resulting in dehydration causing a strain on the Heart. This along with BP medications may result in a drastic fall in blood pressure. The low BP and fast Heart rate are big risk factors for those who are predisposed to or have a history of cardiac issues."
Patients with the risk of heart-failure should consume up to 1.25 litres of water per day and limit salt intake. Water and salt-loss caused by sweating and intake of medications may lead to dangerously low levels of sodium and potassium, he suggests.
Low sodium in blood results in nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion, drowsiness, fatigue, restlessness, irritability, muscle weakness, cramps and seizures, or coma in extreme cases. Low potassium levels due to less water consumption may lead to muscle aches, cramps, palpitations and disturbances in heart rhythm leading to death. So drinking optimum amount of water is crucial in summer.
Elderly patients have less water content in the body, so the impact of water and salt-loss are all the more prominent in elderly patients with high BP and heart failure. The risks of heart attacks increase in these individuals during the summers and are hence the most vulnerable group in need of care.
Dr Mahajan shares some summer-friendly tips for patients with cardiac issues:
Avoid vigorous physical activity in high heat (not even in balconies & terraces) - exercise indoors
Avoid consumption of Caffeine and alcohol
Wear light-coloured, lightweight clothing (preferably Cotton)
Stay in a cool environment with air-conditioning or fans
Monitor your BP regularly
Consult your doctor if your BP is high or low
Depending on symptoms Sodium & Potassium in blood should be checked regularly
Medication dosages may need reductions in elderly patients with history of heart failure and BP
Patients with history of Heart failure consuming very low water and salt, may increase water intake (by 250-500ml/day) and salt intake should be tweaked after seeking your doctors' advice
(Puja Gupta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)