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Heatwave Hydration Tips: for Managing Stress with High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

By Vidhi

Updated - May 30, 20246 min read

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As temperatures soar, heatwaves can pose significant health risks, especially for those with pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Dr. Nishith Chandra's recent observations in New Delhi have highlighted an alarming increase in heatwave-related heart attacks. It's crucial to understand how extreme heat affects the body and what measures can be taken to mitigate these risks, particularly through adequate hydration.


How Heatwaves Impact the Heart

When exposed to extreme temperatures, the body's ability to regulate its internal environment is severely challenged. Typically, our heart helps manage body temperature by circulating blood and facilitating heat exchange. However, during a heatwave, this natural process is disrupted. The heart has to work harder to maintain a stable body temperature, leading to increased stress and the release of stress hormones.


For individuals with high blood pressure (BP) and cholesterol, the situation is even more precarious. The heart's increased workload can exacerbate existing conditions, leading to higher risks of heart attacks and strokes.


Image courtesy: Mpo helal

Understanding the Body’s Response to Heat

As the ambient temperature rises, the body's ability to cool itself diminishes. Under normal circumstances, if the air around is cooler than the body, heat radiates outward easily. But during a heatwave, the heart must pump harder to push more blood to the skin's surface for cooling. This results in an elevated heart rate and increased blood pressure.


Dehydration compounds these problems. When the body is dehydrated, blood volume decreases, making the blood thicker. This thickened blood strains the heart further and can lead to clot formation. For those on medications like diuretics or beta-blockers, these issues are magnified. Diuretics, used to control high blood pressure, increase urine output and can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Beta-blockers, which slow the heartbeat, can prevent the heart from pumping blood quickly enough to manage heat exchange effectively.


Image courtesy: MIT Technology review


Special Considerations for High BP, Cholesterol, and Heart Medications

For individuals managing high blood pressure with medication, the risks associated with heatwaves are significant. Diuretics can exacerbate dehydration by increasing urine output, leading to electrolyte imbalances that affect heart function. Beta-blockers, which slow the heart rate, can limit the heart's ability to pump blood efficiently, further stressing the cardiovascular system during extreme heat.


High cholesterol also presents unique challenges during a heatwave. Constricted arteries due to cholesterol build-up can limit blood flow, making it harder for the body to cool itself. This situation is particularly dangerous for those who have already suffered heart damage or are on heart medication.


Image courtesy: WNDU


The Role of Hydration

Amidst these challenges, hydration stands out as a critical preventive measure. Adequate hydration helps maintain blood volume and prevents the blood from thickening, thus reducing the heart's workload. Dr. Chandra recommends consuming four to six liters of fluids daily, even if you do not feel thirsty. This includes water, juices, and fruit-infused water, which are excellent choices for staying hydrated.


For those with diabetes or a history of stroke, the brain's response to dehydration can be dulled, failing to send proper thirst signals. Therefore, it is essential to monitor fluid intake carefully.


However, not all fluids are beneficial. Avoid sugary sodas, packaged drinks, caffeine, and alcohol as they can hinder water absorption and exacerbate dehydration. Instead, opt for hydrating beverages that aid in maintaining electrolyte balance and hydration levels.


Image courtesy: Times Now


Tips for Managing Heatwaves

1. Stay Hydrated: Make a conscious effort to drink fluids regularly. Keep a water bottle handy and take sips throughout the day.


2. Monitor Fluid Intake: Especially for those with diabetes or a history of stroke, tracking fluid intake can ensure adequate hydration.


3. Avoid Dehydrating Beverages: Stay away from sodas, sugary drinks, caffeine, and alcohol as they can worsen dehydration.


4. Gradual Temperature Transitions: If moving from a cool environment to the heat, allow your body to acclimatize by spending a few minutes in a shaded area before stepping out.


5. Consult Healthcare Providers: For individuals with conditions like congestive heart failure or kidney disease, it's essential to consult healthcare providers about appropriate fluid intake.


6. Understand Medication Effects: Be aware of how your medications might affect your body’s response to heat and hydration needs.

Heatwaves present a significant health risk, particularly for those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart conditions. However, these risks can be effectively managed through proactive hydration and mindful practices. By ensuring sufficient fluid intake and understanding the body's response to heat, individuals can better protect their heart health during extreme temperatures. Stay vigilant, stay hydrated, and consult your healthcare provider to navigate the challenges of heatwaves safely.


Image courtesy: The Star


FAQs on Managing Heatwave Stress and Heart Health


Q1. Why is hydration so crucial during a heatwave, especially for those with high blood pressure and cholesterol?

Ans: Hydration is essential during a heatwave because it helps maintain adequate blood volume, preventing the blood from becoming thick and reducing the strain on the heart. For individuals with high blood pressure and cholesterol, the heart already works harder to pump blood. Dehydration exacerbates this strain, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Drinking four to six liters of fluids daily ensures the body can manage the extra demands caused by extreme heat, maintaining stable blood pressure and heart function.


Q2. What types of beverages should be avoided during a heatwave, and why?

Ans: During a heatwave, it’s important to avoid sugary sodas, packaged drinks, caffeine, and alcohol. These beverages can hinder water absorption from the digestive system into the bloodstream, exacerbating dehydration. Caffeine and alcohol, in particular, have diuretic effects, increasing urine output and further dehydrating the body. Instead, opt for water, natural juices, and fruit-infused water, which help maintain hydration levels and support overall heart health.


Q3. What precautions should individuals on heart medications take during extreme heat?

Ans: Individuals on heart medications, such as diuretics and beta-blockers, should take extra precautions during extreme heat. Diuretics can increase urine output, leading to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Beta-blockers slow the heart rate, limiting the heart's ability to pump blood efficiently for heat exchange. It’s crucial to stay well-hydrated, monitor fluid intake carefully, and consult healthcare providers for personalized advice. Gradual acclimatization to temperature changes, like waiting in shaded areas before stepping out, can also help the body adjust better to the heat.