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Extreme Heat And The Heart

July 6, 2011, 6:09 PM by Nicole Winters

Extreme Heat And The Heart
SIOUX FALLS, SD - It took a while, but summer heat has finally made its way to KELOLAND.  While many are eager to get out and enjoy it, doctors are warning people to be careful, especially those with a heart condition.

"We sweat more.  The heart has to work harder; it's an increased stress on the heart," Avera Heart Hospital ER Physician Dr. Jeff Anderson said.

Anderson has seen this many times. He says people of any age can be affected by extreme heat, but some are more prone to problems, like those with heart disease.

"Someone with underlying heart disease has an additional stress put on them by trying to keep their body cool in the heat," Anderson said.

People suffer from heat-related illnesses when they can't properly cool themselves. Sweating is a way the body tries to do that, but it doesn't always work. Conditions like humidity, age, obesity, circulation and dehydration can all keep people from cooling down.

"We can lose fluids out of our body; we can lose electrolytes.  And these can cause problems with the heart, rhythm disturbances and increased stress on someone who already has coronary artery disease," Anderson said.

Drinking caffeine or alcohol will only add to the risk because both will cause the body to lose fluids instead of retain them.

"In the summer, heart patients, actually anybody, should make it practice to get eight glasses of water in a day," Anderson said.

That along with taking frequent breaks in the air conditioning will help prevent heat related illnesses, no matter your age, or health history.

You can find more information on heat related illnesses and prevention at the CDC website.

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