Summer Heat May Trigger AFib – Tips to Protect Your Heart

As the mercury climbs this summer, older adults and especially those with atrial fibrillation (AFib) may be at an increased risk for stroke and heart failure when extreme heat makes the heart work harder to regulate itself.

For every degree your body temperature rises, your heart beats 10BPM faster.  Making the heart work harder during very hot summer weather can trigger Afib when the body becomes dehydrated.   In order to protect your heart in the summer months, drink water before and after exercising and avoid the sun when it’s strongest, between noon and 3 p.m.  Stay cool indoors during extreme weather (over 90 F) with air conditioning, cold showers or ice packs.  Always remember to wear sunscreen outdoors to prevent sunburn which can create more heat by stimulating greater blood flow and an inflammatory response.

Elderly adults may not realize they are becoming dehydrated or overheated because older bodies don’t sweat as effectively or signal a feeling of thirst.  Staying hydrated with water, decaffeinated drinks or fruit with a high water content and dressing in cool, lightweight breathable fabrics can help prevent health problems for seniors in very hot weather.

AFib is the most common type of heart arrhythmia; when the heart beats too slowly, too quickly or in an irregular way.   Nearly 9 per cent of people over the age of 65 have AFib and many more have the condition but don’t know because they do not experience any symptoms. Some of symptoms of AFib include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart palpitations (rapid, fluttering, or pounding)
  • Lightheadedness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Older age is one of the risk factors for AFib, which increases the risk for stroke by 4 to 5 times over people who do not have Afib, but high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, heart failure and heavy alcohol use can also raise your chances of developing AFib.  Treatments including medication, surgery and healthy lifestyle changes can help people manage their AFib and it’s risk factors.

Learn more about protecting your heart in the summer heat by following this link to the American Heart Association website.