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The summer heat is here and it can be harder on your heart. But why does heat increase heart rate? There are actually multiple reasons.
Very high heat can lower blood pressure, causing your heart to beat faster and putting you at risk for a heart attack. But there are other ways that the climate you live in can affect your heart health. For example, big changes in temperature during the day can cause heart attacks to spike, too.
So, let’s take a closer look at why heat increases heart rate.
A study in the European Heart Journal uncovered a link between global warming and an increase in heart attack rates. The study looked at more than 27,000 heart attack patients between 1987 and 2014.
Researchers connected heart attacks with weather information on the day of the attack. They say heat-related risk significantly increased over the years. They found that more heat-related heart attacks happened in the more recent years of the study — from 2001 to 2014.
There are other studies out there that generated similar results. University at Albany researchers recently discovered that temperature had a bigger impact on cardiovascular disease death when combined with high humidity.
And Harvard University researchers say that damage from a heart attack can keep your heart from pumping enough blood to get rid of heat. Other factors that can make hot weather hard on your heart include:
Hot, humid weather can be especially hard for people with heart failure, or those on the verge of it.
Researchers say these and other conditions can dull your brain’s response to dehydration. So, it may fail to send thirst signals.
But it’s not just the heat alone that may trigger heart trouble. Researchers at the University of Michigan discovered that large temperature swings may also cause problems.
The study looked at more than 30,000 people in 45 Michigan hospitals. Results show that there were more heart attacks when the difference between the day’s highest and lowest temperatures was very high. The researchers figured this out by matching hospital records with weather records in each hospital’s zip code.
They say heart attack risk increased about 5% for every 9 degrees (Fahrenheit) of temperature change. Swings of more than 45 degrees were associated with more heart attacks than smaller changes in temperature. But this risk appears to crop up mainly during warmer weather, with the most marked effect occurring on days with an average temperature of 86 degrees.
According to the American Heart Association, certain heart medications like beta-blockers, ace receptor blockers, ace inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and diuretics (which deplete the body of sodium) can exaggerate the body’s response to heat.
The best advice you can get is to talk to your doctor before going out in the heat and exerting yourself. You should also remember that there are a few precautions you can take to help you beat the heat, including:
You should also get your heart checked regularly. By getting a coronary calcium score, you can learn your 10-year risk of heart attack.
To learn more about heart disease and its risk factors, our guide called “The Heart Disease Facts That Can Change Your Life” may help. It’s packed with information that can help decrease your risk of heart attack or stroke.