Expert discusses ways to stay heart healthy, hydrated and fit during the summer

July 23, 2015 by Leha Byrd

Summer can be a lazy time. Cookouts, vacations, graduation parties and similar events may tempt us to throw caution to the wind when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, particularly as it relates to diet and exercise. However, experts at the Pauley Heart Center, part of Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, suggest being ever mindful of lifestyle habits that promote good heart health.

The summer months are an especially critical time for heart health because of the risks of dehydration and other heat-related illnesses. Bethany Denlinger, M.D., medical director of the Cardiology Lab at VCU Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill, Virginia, answered questions about hydration, exercise, eating and basic good heart health in the summer months.

What is the significance of staying hydrated as it relates to a healthy heart?

Your heart has to work harder if you are dehydrated. Your muscles do not work efficiently without proper hydration. Hydrate throughout the day, not just before exercise. Water is best. Mix it up with flavored waters or sparkling water. Keep a water bottle within reach. Avoid sodas and alcohol. Additionally, monitor your urine. If you are drinking enough water, it should be clear or light yellow, not cloudy and dark. If you weigh yourself before and after exercise, consume 16-20 ounces of fluid for every pound lost.

Considering typical summer events such as cookouts, graduation celebrations, etc., what are some tips for eating healthy and thoughtfully?

Consider healthy choices at your family events. Choose lean beef and make smaller hamburger patties. Grill chicken or salmon. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. They contain nutrients that you lose when you sweat. Enjoy seasonal food, peaches, watermelon, strawberries, tomatoes, cantaloupes. Try new healthy foods like kale, spinach or red beets. Eat desserts in moderation.

Describe the appropriate attire and accessories to stay cool and regulate your body temperature during the summer months?

Wear single-layer, absorbent, loose-fitting clothing, preferably light colors. Look for "wicking" fabrics. Carry a water bottle and consider a water belt.

What types of exercises and preventive actions are appropriate during the summer months for a person who has heart issues?

Don't give up. If you can stay active, you should. Walk on the treadmill indoors. Exercise at a cardiac rehab center with blood pressure and heart rate monitoring. Take more breaks. Rest in a shaded area. Exercise early in the day. Gradually begin your exercise and gradually cool off. Pay attention to the heat index which takes into account for humidity and temperature. With strenuous activity, alternate water with .

What are the adverse effects of not taking care of your heart health, with proper diet and exercise, during any season?

No exercise leads to deconditioning. Deconditioning leads to muscle weakness. With deconditioning, the heart does not work efficiently.

What are common issues experienced during the summer months by individuals who have heart issues?

In the summer, there are more hospital admissions for congestive heart failure. If the heart muscle is weak, there is a difficult balance between drinking too much fluid and dehydration. It is important to weigh yourself daily. Avoid too much salt in your diet. Seek medical assistance if your weight is increasing and you are more short of breath and notice swelling. It is also important to take your at home. Blood pressure medicines may exaggerate the body's response to heat.

What are the signs that a person with heart issues needs to seek medical attention?

With regard to a heart patient's summer cautions, there are three heat-related conditions – heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat cramps are muscle pains and spasm. You should drink sports drinks and water. Heat exhaustion is a more severe condition. Apply cool cloths to the skin and drink sports drinks and water in small amounts. Heat stroke means you have a temperature of 104 degrees and brain symptoms. This is life-threatening. Call 911 and douse the person with cold water or ice. The early symptoms are nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fast heart rate and fatigue. If symptoms are not improving with hydration seek medical attention. The severity of heat illness may not be apparent in the initial presentation.

Explore further: Ways to avoid heat stroke

Related Stories

Ways to avoid heat stroke

June 24, 2014
Having some fun in the sun is typically a popular summer activity, but it can also be dangerous.

Advice for older people on staying safe in hot weather

July 8, 2015
Summer weather can pose special health risks to older adults and people with chronic medical conditions. It is critically important that adults particularly susceptible to hyperthermia and other heat-related illnesses know ...

Expert discusses heat-related illnesses, prevention, signs and symptoms

June 19, 2015
With extreme heat upon us early this summer season, medical experts at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center remind people not to ignore the dangers that accompany the high temperatures.  Despite improved education ...

Drink up for exercise, but not too much

August 27, 2014
With students heading back to school, fall sports are in full swing. In addition to training, eating right, and getting enough sleep, a significant key to health and performance is staying hydrated. However, the recent tragic ...

Heed the heat during summer workouts

June 30, 2013
(HealthDay)—People who exercise or play sports outdoors during the summer need to take steps to avoid heat injury, especially heat stroke, an expert says.

Milk better than water to rehydrate kids: study

August 17, 2011
Active children need to be watered with milk. It's a more effective way of countering dehydration than a sports drink or water itself, say researchers at McMaster University.

Recommended for you

Motorcycle crashes cause five times as many deaths as car accidents, six times the health costs

November 20, 2017
Motorcycle accidents are costly in terms of lives and health care costs. Compared with car accidents, motorcycle accidents cause 3 times the injuries, 6 times the medical costs and 5 times the deaths, found new research in ...

Changes in young people's sexual practices over the last 20 years revealed

November 20, 2017
Published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the study describes changes in young people's sexual practices using nationally-representative data from the National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal), the ...

New shoe makes running 4 percent easier, 2-hour marathon possible, study shows

November 17, 2017
Eleven days after Boulder-born Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon in new state-of-the-art racing flats known as "4%s," University of Colorado Boulder researchers have published the study that inspired the shoes' ...

Vaping while pregnant could cause craniofacial birth defects, study shows

November 16, 2017
Using e-cigarettes during pregnancy could cause birth defects of the oral cavity and face, according to a recent Virginia Commonwealth University study.

Study: For older women, every movement matters

November 16, 2017
Folding your laundry or doing the dishes might not be the most enjoyable parts of your day. But simple activities like these may help prolong your life, according to the findings of a new study in older women led by the University ...

When vegetables are closer in price to chips, people eat healthier, study finds

November 16, 2017
When healthier food, like vegetables and dairy products, is pricier compared to unhealthy items, like salty snacks and sugary sweets, Americans are significantly less likely to have a high-quality diet, a new Drexel University ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.