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Beating the heat and staying safe

Dog days, global warming, mid-July on Shelter Island — call it what you want, but it’s hot. Really hot, and potentially dangerous, not just from sunburn, but for our hearts.

On Chen, M.D. a cardiologist with Stony Brook Medicine, has provided some tips to stay safe in brutally hot and humid weather. And they’re not just for people with existing heart conditions, but everyone. “Even a healthy heart can be put under stress when temperatures climb,” Dr. Chen said.”

Here are suggestions from the doctor to keep you safe.

Hydrate: Adequate hydration is nothing less than your best friend as the summer heat moves in. Drinking plenty of water helps regulate your temperature, helps your heart pump more easily and keeps all your organs functioning properly. Remember to drink before you are thirsty, and avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages, which can dehydrate the body.

Staying Cool: If you don’t have access to air conditioning, cold compresses (an ice-pack or ice-water filled bottle) applied to your “pulse points” — the areas where your veins are closest to your skin’s surface, including wrists, neck, temples and armpits — can help you cool down.

Eat Water-Rich Foods: You get about 20 % of your water from the foods you eat. A hot weather diet that emphasizes cold soups, salads and fruits can both satisfy hunger and provide extra fluid. Strawberries, watermelon, peaches, cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, peppers and spinach, are all fruits and veggies that are 90 % or more water.

Know Heat Illness Warning Signs: Spending too much time in extreme heat may lead to heat exhaustion and, in turn, heatstroke, two serious heat-related illnesses in which your body can’t control its temperature.

Heat Exhaustion Symptoms: Heavy sweating, nausea or vomiting, muscle cramps, tiredness, dizziness and fainting. Treatment: Move to a cool place, loosen clothing, use cold compresses, sip cool (not cold) water. If symptoms persist, call 911.

• Heatstroke (also called Sunstroke) Symptoms: Fever of 104 degrees or more; severe headache; behavioral changes; confusion; hot, red skin; no sweating; rapid heartbeat and loss of consciousness. Treatment: Heatstroke is a life-threatening medical emergency. Call 911 immediately. Quickly move the individual to a cooler place, use cold compresses, do not give anything to drink.

Timing is Everything: Avoid being outdoors during the hottest times of the day, when the sun is at its strongest. Your cardiovascular system has to work harder on a hot day in an effort to keep your body cool. In fact, for every degree that your body temperature rises, your heart has to pump an additional 10 beats per minute. Everyone is at risk in extreme heat, but high temperatures and humidity are particularly stressful for those who already have a weakened heart.

Don’t Burn: The sun can dehydrate you and impede your body’s ability to cool. If you’re going to be outside during the peak sun of the day, be sure to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you head out. Reapply every couple of hours.

Dress Right: Think loose, light-colored clothing (to help reflect heat) made of a lightweight, breathable fabric like cotton. Add a wide-brimmed hat, shades and sunscreen and you’re good to go.

Pace Yourself: Make your warm weather workouts shorter and slower, aim for morning or evening when the temps and humidity are lower, choose shady pathways and trails or an air-conditioned space.

Listen To Your Body: If you aren’t used to regular exercise, are over 50, have heart disease or have questions about your heart health, see your doctor before participating in any strenuous outdoor summer activities.