Many parts of the country, especially here in Texas, are experiencing record-breaking heat with temperatures soaring into the triple digits. This type of extreme weather can be extra dangerous for those who are taking certain medications for heart conditions, high blood pressure and other diseases that put them at increased risk of more severe illness and, in some cases, even death.
“The reason why is that when our bodies get overheated, they have to work that much harder to cool off, putting more stress on our system,” said Dr. Wafi Momin, an assistant professor with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston and a cardiologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital. “This can cause our heart rate to increase so that we can expel heat from our bodies. If the body of a person with a heart condition is working overtime to cool off, it can become problematic.”
People with heart conditions are not the only ones who need to be extra cautious in the heat. According to Dr. Momin, people taking certain diuretics are also at a greater risk. Diuretics are water pills that rid the body of excess water and salt.
“Diuretic medications can make you urinate more and if you combine that with exposure to extreme heat, you start to lose fluid through excessive sweating,” Dr. Momin said. “Exposure to both the heat as well as medicines, like diuretics, can cause significant dehydration by excessive fluid loss.”
Diuretics are used to treat several conditions including high blood pressure and medical conditions that cause people to retain fluids, such as congestive heart failure, kidney dysfunction and liver dysfunction.
Dr. Momin says people taking diuretics should really be cautious when it comes to being outdoors in the summer.
“For patients with congestive heart failure, or for patients taking diuretics, they should limit their exposure to the heat,” Momin said. “If you have to go outside, it’s important to stay well-hydrated. Drink water at least every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty, and wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing.”
Here are some other tips to help everyone stay safe in the summer heat:
- Take periodic rest breaks in the shade, a cool area or air-conditioned space.
- When working or exercising outside in hot, humid weather, wear a hat and loose, lightweight, light-colored cotton clothing.
- Do not drink alcohol or beverages that contain caffeine (including energy drinks).
- Avoid going outdoors for activities or exercise when the temperature and humidity are high. The hottest part of the day is 3 to 6 p.m.
- Wear sunscreen. A sunburn reduces your body’s ability to cool down. It can also dehydrate you.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses outdoors.
- Avoid eating a hot, heavy meal.
- Pace yourself. Rest often.
- Monitor your urine output. If you urinate too much you could have a heat illness.
- Never leave a child, elderly person or pet in the car without air conditioning for any period of time.
“If you experience a quick, strong pulse, feel dizzy, begin to have slurred speech or confusion, begin to feel nauseated or have a temperature of over 105 degrees, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately,” Dr. Momin said. “Taking the necessary precautions will make the summer much more enjoyable.”