While heart attack risk is 63% higher for people taking antiplatelet drugs, beta-blockers may carry a 65% higher risk, with people taking both drugs having the highest risk at 75%, according to the ‘study. Beta-blockers and antiplatelet drugs are among the most commonly prescribed medications for people at risk for conditions such as high blood pressure (hypertension), chest pain (angina), and cardiovascular disease.
Actually, Wafin Momin, MDBoard Certified Cardiovascular Specialist and Adjunct Professor at University of Texas Health Sciences Center (UT Health) in Houston, says heat-related hospitalizations are still a concern during the summer months.
Heart medications and heat: here’s what you need to know
“Blood pressure medications, such as beta-blockers and diuretics, can make people more vulnerable (to hot weather), while beta-blockers reduce heart activity, diuretics mainly remove body fluids. your body,” says Dr. Momin. “And if you take either of these drugs, your risk of developing low blood pressure and becoming even more dehydrated is high, as you will also lose huge amounts of fluid through sweating.”
Certain heart medications like calcium channel blockers, angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) blockers, and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), which remove sodium from the body, can also intensify the reaction of the body to heat, causing feelings of discomfort in case of extreme heat, by the American Heart Association (AHA).
According Richard Becker, MDcardiologist and professor of medicine at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio, antihypertensive drugs can have a negative impact on fluid retention and blood pressure when ambient temperatures are high. “And to add to the list: diuretics, including furosemide or torsemide, and vasodilators like lisinopril or entresto are the most common examples,” he says.
Why do high temperatures affect our heart and blood pressure, in particular?
In high temperatures and humidity, the heart pumps twice as much blood per minute as on a normal day, for Mayo Clinic.
“Hot weather raises body temperature, causing your heart to pump harder and faster to send more blood to your skin to radiate heat and regulate body temperature,” Dr. Momin says. “Simply put: your heart works harder to stay cool during the summer. If you are exposed to such high temperatures for an extended period of time, your body can lose significant amounts of fluid in the form of sweat, which causes a low blood pressure and dehydration.”
The Best Ways to Stay Safe in the Heat If You’re Taking One of These Medications
First of all, Dr. Momin wants to remind you that it is completely safe to continue to follow the doctor’s prescription for your heart medications. “You should not stop or change any of your medications without talking to the doctor first,” adds Dr. Becker.
Considering that temperatures above 70 degrees and humidity above 70% present the highest risks, Dr. Momin advises people taking any of these medications to avoid the hottest times of the day. If you must be outdoors during the summer, choose the cooler times of the day, such as early morning or late evening, adds Dr. Momin. “It’s really important to take multiple breaks if you’re going to be away for long periods of time, and to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day,” he says.
According to Dr. Becker, you should avoid physical activity during the heat of the day and only engage in brief bursts of activity during the morning hours. “Alternate between water and fluids with electrolytes during your activity. And for clothing, wear light colors, fabrics that don’t retain heat, loose clothing and cooling hats,” he says.
Some signs of overheating to watch out for
Both Dr. Momin and Dr. Becker recommend watching for signs of overheating, such as excessive sweating, fatigue, dizziness, muscle cramps, rapid pulse, headache, fainting, and nausea.
If you experience any of these symptoms, the following guidelines of AHA can help you stay safe:
- drink enough water
- move to a cooler place
- stop exercising and cool down immediately
- rehydrate by splashing with cold water
- see a doctor if symptoms are severe
“As a rule of thumb, be smart, don’t miss a beat, but avoid the heat,” says Dr. Becker.
Finally, remember that your heart health plays an important role in your overall well-being. Plus, you can enjoy a great summer while taking your heart medications, protecting yourself against the heat wave, and seeking emergency medical care if the heat is having a big impact on your health.