As many families are returnning home to a flooded house, stress can become a serious health issue. Combine the stress of cleanup with the warmer temperatures of the season and the risk of heart attack and stroke increase dramatically.
The American Heart Association offers this advice:
Many are beginning the difficult process of cleaning their homes and helping out their neighbors following the most devastating floods in Middle Tennessee history. At such a time, it may be easy to forget to take care of one’s self while taking care of everyone and everything else. With the hot weather that has suddenly descended on the region, the American Heart Association wants all Tennesseans to stay safe, stay healthy and take precautions to prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can have devastating effects on health.
How does hot weather affect the heart?
Extremely hot weather causes dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. These risks increase when the humidity is above 70 percent and the temperature is above 70 degrees F. Heat and humidity interfere with the body's natural cooling process.
Physical activity outside in hot and humid conditions can be hard on your heart. This is true even for athletes who haven't yet adapted to the heat. The problem is made worse because the heart is trying to deliver blood and oxygen to your working muscles while your body is trying to cool off by sweating. If you sweat too much, you lose fluid. This decreases your total blood volume. That means your heart has to pump even harder to get the smaller volume of blood to your working muscles, skin and the other body parts. When you lose too much fluid, your body temperature rises and your nervous system doesn't work properly. Extreme fluid loss can lead to brain and heart damage.
A good way to monitor your body fluid level is to weigh every morning after using the bathroom. If you weigh two pounds less than normal in the morning, you're probably dehydrated and need to drink more water before doing any vigorous physical activity. (You may have lost weight as water but not as fat.)
What precautions should be taken?
If you plan to be doing cleanup in hot and humid weather, wear very light, comfortable clothing and work in the early morning or late evening, if possible.
Drink plenty of water, and drink it frequently. If you are thirsty, you may already be dehydrated. Stop and hydrate immediately.
Take breaks as needed and get out of the sun if possible.
Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If any symptoms appear, stop exercising and cool down immediately by dousing yourself with cold water. You may need to get medical attention. Heat exhaustion can progress quickly to heat stroke, which can kill you.
What are the symptoms of heat exhaustion?
· heavy sweating
· cold, clammy skin
· dizziness or fainting (syncope)
· a weak and rapid pulse
· muscle cramps
· fast, shallow breathing
· nausea, vomiting or both
What are the symptoms of heat stroke?
· warm, dry skin with no sweating
· strong and rapid pulse
· confusion and/or unconsciousness
· high fever
· throbbing headaches
· nausea, vomiting or both
By taking precautions and knowing the signs, we can all put Middle Tennessee back in shape, while staying in good shape ourselves.
American Heart Association, Nashville
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