Anyone can find the hot weather difficult to cope with, but if you have a heart condition you might find the heat can affect you more.
When the weather is warm, your heart needs to work harder to pump blood to the surface of your skin to assist with sweating to cool your body. When you sweat to cool down you lose more fluid than usual from your body, which can lower your blood pressure and make your heart beat faster.
It is important to always check with your GP or cardiologist for advice if you are on a fluid restriction and you’re concerned about your fluid intake during a period of hot weather. Otherwise, try to take frequent sips of fluids like water, and try to reduce caffeine-based drinks, as they can make you more dehydrated.
You might also find that you need to rest more during warmer weather because your heart is working harder to keep you cool. Try to find a cool room and wear light comfortable clothing.
Sometimes medications for heart conditions can reduce the body’s ability to cool when it is warm. It is advisable to try to reduce the time you are outside in the sun, try to keep indoors and as cool as possible. You may need to speak to your GP or heart nurse if you are taking diuretics and you are concerned about safe levels of fluid intake during a period of hot weather.
How to cope in warm weather
The main risks during a heatwave (when the daytime temperature reaches 30 degrees) and hot weather are:
- Dehydration, not having enough water
- Overheating, this can make symptoms worse for people who have heart or breathing problems.
- Heat exhaustion and heat stroke
Tips for coping in warm weather:
- Avoid getting too warm if you can, try and stay out of the sun and don't go out between 11am and 3pm if you are vulnerable to the effects of warmer weather.
- Shut your windows and keep curtains, blinds or shutters closed when it is hot outside. You can open the windows for ventilation during the cooler parts of the day.
- Try having slightly cooler water in your shower or bath. Sometimes splashing yourself with cool water can help to cool your skin.
- Drink cooler drinks regularly (unless you have been advised to maintain a fluid restriction), such as water or diluted fruit juice can help. Try to avoid drinking alcohol, drinks containing caffeine (tea, coffee, and cola) or drinks high in sugar.
- Plan ahead to make sure you have enough supplies of drinks, food and any medications you need.
- Identify the coolest room in the house so you can go there to keep cool when it’s hot outside.
- Wear loose, cool clothing and a hat and sunglasses if you go outdoors. Sit outside during cooler hours and sit in the shade or under an umbrella.
- Eliminate or limit physical activity during the hottest parts of the day and do light exercise during the cooler hours.
- Take light meals; avoid hot heavy meals and reduce the use of your oven to keep your rooms cooler.
- Some medications can increase your risk for heat stress, ask your pharmacist if any of your medications could increase your risk.
Signs of heat related problems are:
- Heat stress symptoms include headaches, nausea, and fatigue.
- Heat fatigue symptoms include cool moist skin, a weakened pulse and feeling faint.
- Heat cramps can cause muscle spasms in the abdomen, arms, or legs after exercise.
- Heat exhaustion occurs as a warning that the body is getting too hot. Watch out for thirst, giddiness, dizziness, weakness, lack of coordination, nausea, profuse sweating, and cold or clammy skin. Body temperature may still be normal, and your pulse can be normal or raised slightly. Passing urine may also decrease and vomiting may occur.
- Heat stroke is very serious and immediate medical attention is required. The signs are, a rising body temperature, confusion, bizarre behaviour, and feeling faint or staggering. Heat stroke can also cause a rapid pulse, dry and flushed skin that can also feel hot, a lack of sweating and fast and shallow breathing.
To alleviate symptoms whilst waiting for medical help:
- Have the person lie down in a cool place
- Elevate the feet
- Cool them with a handheld fan
- Apply a cool wet cloth or water to the skin
- Give them small sips of cool water
You may feel tired and weak for a few days after suffering from heat stress.
Seek help from a GP or contact NHS 111 if someone is feeling unwell (or 999) and shows symptoms of:
- Chest pain
- Intense thirst
- Cramps which get worse or don't go away
Enjoy the warmer weather but remember to stay safe and help to keep others safe, especially children. If you would like to speak to a support nurse our specialist nurses are available to talk to on our helpline 0800 018 1024 Monday – Friday 08.30am-16.30pm.