Have you ever felt your heart skip a beat? Felt a flutter in your chest, or your heart beating really fast?
These could be signs of an arrhythmia, or more simply, an irregular heartbeat. But don’t panic if you’ve occasionally had these symptoms. While they can be quite alarming, they aren’t all that uncommon. In fact, millions of people experience similar symptoms every year.
We all welcome the arrival of summer and the opportunity to spend more time outdoors, but the extreme heat that comes with the season sometimes can trigger the symptoms of an irregular heartbeat. However, there are precautions you can take to reduce the chances of that happening.
Here are six ways to stay heart healthy while having fun this summer:
- Drink plenty of fluids - It is important to drink a lot of water, especially in hot weather and even when you aren’t feeling thirsty. Dehydration often is associated with vacationers who tend to stray from their regular schedules and eating habits. Carrying a refillable water bottle with you everywhere you go – and remembering to drink from it – will go a long way toward preventing dehydration.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol - Sometimes, the sun is draining you of energy, and you feel like you need the little “boost” from a caffeinated drink or a cold adult beverage to cool down. But be careful, as both caffeine and alcohol are considered diuretics that cause you to urinate more, which in turn increases your risk of dehydration. In addition, alcohol can dilate blood vessels and lower your blood pressure. Be aware of the caffeine content in popular beverages which can speed up your heart rate. Both issues that can contribute to an episode of irregular heartbeat.
- Avoid exercising or any outdoor activities during extreme heat - Exercise alone can cause the heart to have an episode of beating irregularly, but throw hot weather on top of that and you’ve just upped the odds. Instead, opt for indoor exercise and activities, or if you must be outside, perform strenuous activities in the cooler temperatures just before sun-up.
- Buddy up - If you have any type of known heart arrhythmia, it’s better not to go it alone in extreme heat conditions. If you or your friend do happen to experience heat exhaustion (symptoms include: heavy sweating, weakness, fast and weak pulse, fainting), it’s important to know what to do: get out of the heat and into a cool area, remove any unnecessary clothing and drink plenty of fluids. If symptoms don’t improve within 30 minutes, call your doctor or 911.
- Wear light and loose-fitting clothing - Light-colored and loose-fitting clothes are the best choice to keep cool in hot summer weather, and natural fabrics such as cotton are preferred over synthetic fibers. Why? Light, loose-fitting clothing is less likely to trap body heat and can help reduce the chances of heat exhaustion.
- Check the weather - Watch the weather forecast and heed any heat warnings. Remember, heat warnings are issued for good reason – to protect you! Excessive heat is dangerous for everyone, but especially for those with known heart conditions.
“A heart arrhythmia should not be taken lightly,” says Kettering Health Network Cardiologist Shahid Baig, MD. “It raises your chances for stroke and can also lead to other heart problems and chronic fatigue. While some people never know they have heart arrhythmia until diagnosed by a doctor during an examination, there are symptoms you can be on the lookout for.”
Watch out for the following:
• An occasional thumping or flutter in your chest
• Shortness of breath
• A sudden feeling of weakness or fatigue
• Difficulty exercising
• Chest pain
• Dizziness or confusion
If you have any concerns about your heart, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and schedule an appointment with a cardiologist. Click here to find a Kettering Physician Network Cardiologist.
How healthy is your heart? Take the risk quiz and find out!