Summertime heat poses all sorts of health risks, including sunburn and skin cancer, dehydration and heat stroke.
However, those taking blood pressure medications are especially susceptible to the dangers of excessive heat. Dr. Yazid Fadl, a cardiologist with Indiana University Health, talks about how those on such medications can stay safe.
What happens to your arteries and blood vessels when exposed to excessive heat?
Heat dilates the blood vessels, which naturally lowers blood pressure. However, the effects of heat are magnified for those on high blood pressure medications. One in four Americans have hypertension and, of those, one in two are on medication.
What are the side effects of too much heat exposure for those on high blood pressure medications?
Those on high blood pressure medications are likelier to experience dizziness, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, dehydration and tiredness. High humidity can also affect those on medication because when it’s too humid, your body can’t sweat as efficiently to cool you off, thus it gets overheated more easily, your blood pressure drops and you pass out.
Alcohol and caffeine can also make you more likely to pass out when in the heat; for every can of beer, you need to drink three times as much water to stay hydrated.
What qualifies as “excessive heat?”
Excessive heat can vary from person-to-person, but, generally, when you start to reach 90 degrees, the body starts to feel the effects. The temperature is just one component; the amount of sunshine and humidity also play a key role in determining how much time a person can spend outdoors.
What should I do if I’m feeling any of these symptoms?
The key is to immediately find a cool place to sit or lie down, drink 36-48 ounces of water and rest. I recommend avoiding heat the rest of the day and consulting with your physician if symptoms persist. The best advice I can give is to just use common sense. In other words, if you feel a little “out of it,” then take a break in a cool area and hydrate yourself until you recover.
What can those on medication do to maintain a healthy blood pressure this summer?
First and foremost, avoid alcohol when out in the heat. Second, drink plenty of fluids to remain hydrated during those long, sunny and hot summer days.
While I encourage everyone to get out and enjoy a little bit of sunshine, be cognizant of your boundaries and stamina. If you do need or want to go outdoors, do it in the morning or late in the evening when it’s cooler.