Be smart and hydrate when exercising, even if you don’t feel thirsty. CONTRIBUTED

5 ways you can protect your heart in the heat

How to stay a step ahead of summer.

As we approach the summer season, temperatures start to get more and more extreme. This can present a problem for people with heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular heartbeat. Extreme heat pushes your heart into overdrive, and that can trigger AFib.

Check out these five tips to help protect your heart during hot weather:

1. Drink lots of water

Stay hydrated. Dehydration is a trigger for AFib as well as for stroke. It is important to drink lots of fluid, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

2. Avoid caffeine and alcohol

Both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, which cause you to urinate more, contributing to dehydration in the heat. Alcohol also dilates blood vessels, which may lower blood pressure and stress the heart. Caffeine may increase the risk of AFib because it stimulates and speeds up the heart. This combination makes them both heart health risks.

3. Wear light clothing

When the temperatures are high outside, lightweight and light-colored clothing are less likely to trap heat against your body so you stay cool.

4. Avoid exercising outside

Exercising is great, but in extreme heat it can be physically exhausting. Extreme physical exhaustion is a common trigger for AFib. It is best to time your workouts during the cooler hours around dawn and dusk and stay indoors on those extra hot days.

5. Check your heat index

Excessive heat is dangerous for everyone. Pay attention to weather service warnings. If excessive heat is in the forecast, change your plans that involve the outdoors.

“AFib should not be taken lightly,” says Shahid Baig, MD, a Kettering Physician Network cardiologist who, as an electrophysiologist, studies the electrical stimulus to the heart, including irregular heartbeats and other causes of cardiac arrest. “AFib raises your chances for stroke, and can also lead to other heart problems and chronic fatigue. While some people never know they have AFib until diagnosed by a doctor during an examination, there are symptoms you can be on the lookout for.”

Know the signs

Watch out for the following:

• An occasional thumping or flutter in your chest

• Shortness of breath

• A sudden feeling of weakness, fatigue

• Difficulty exercising

• Chest pain

• Fainting

• Dizziness, confusion

Sometimes AFib goes away without treatment. When symptoms persist, treatment may restore the heart’s normal rhythm. If rhythm cannot be restored, your doctor will help you control symptoms and prevent complications.

Treatments for AFib include:

• Medicines to slow a rapid heart rate or restore heart rhythm

• Medicines such as warfarin and aspirin to reduce stroke risk

• A pacemaker implanted under the skin to regulate heart rhythm

• Surgery to reduce the uncoordinated electrical activity in the heart

Stay on beat

Get your heart checked regularly and work with your doctor on lifestyle strategies for optimal heart health.

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Kettering Health Network is a faith-based, not-for-profit healthcare system. The network has eight hospitals: Grandview, Kettering, Sycamore, Southview, Greene Memorial, Fort Hamilton, Kettering Behavioral Health and Soin.