In recent weeks, extreme summer heat and deteriorating air quality have become major public health concerns. These extreme conditions can significantly impact cardiovascular health, increasing heart attack risk. The combination of extreme heat and poor air quality can increase the risks of heart attack and cardiovascular issues.
Extreme Heat and the Heart
Extreme heat events, characterized by prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, can place enormous stress on the human body. One of the most vulnerable organs during such conditions is the heart. As temperatures soar, our bodies work hard to cool down, leading to increased heart rate and blood pressure. This added strain can prove to be dangerous for individuals with pre-existing heart conditions or compromised cardiovascular systems.
Air Quality and the Heart
Air quality, on the other hand, plays a critical role in determining the overall health of individuals, particularly when it comes to heart health. Poor air quality often results from air pollution, including harmful particles, ozone, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide. When these pollutants are inhaled, they can cause inflammation in the body and lead to damage to blood vessels and arteries, increasing the risk of heart attacks.
Synergistic Effects: A Lethal Combination
What makes matters worse is the synergistic effect of extreme heat and poor air quality. During heatwaves, air pollution tends to worsen due to the buildup of ground-level ozone, exacerbating the health risks. Additionally, extreme heat can increase the production of airborne pollutants from various sources, such as vehicles and industrial facilities. The combined effect of these two factors creates a deadly combination that poses a severe threat to cardiovascular health.
Certain groups of people are at higher risk during extreme heat events with poor air quality. The elderly, children, pregnant women, and individuals with pre-existing heart conditions, respiratory issues, or diabetes are particularly vulnerable. Additionally, individuals living in urban areas, where air pollution is often higher, may face elevated risks.
Strategies for Mitigation and Adaptation
Mitigating the adverse effects of extreme heat and poor air quality requires a multi-faceted approach. Public health authorities must implement heat emergency plans to protect vulnerable populations during heat waves. It is also crucial to address the sources of air pollution through stricter regulations and the promotion of sustainable practices. Individuals can take personal measures, such as staying indoors during peak heat hours, using air purifiers, and reducing their carbon footprint.
What can you do to reduce your risk of heart attack?
There are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk of heart attack, including:
- Managing your risk factors.
If you have any risk factors for heart attack, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, work with your doctor to manage them.
- Staying active.
Regular physical activity can help to keep your heart healthy.
- Eating a healthy diet.
A healthy diet can help to reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Quitting smoking.
Smoking is a major risk factor for heart attack.
How can you stay safe during extreme heat and poor air quality?
If you are exposed to extreme heat or poor air quality, there are a number of things you can do to stay safe:
- Drink plenty of fluids, such as water and fruit juice, to prevent dehydration. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and overly sweetened beverages.
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothes.
- Avoid direct sunlight by staying in the shade and wearing sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
- Stay in air-conditioned areas when possible. If your home is not air-conditioned, consider a visit to County facilities or a shopping center during regular business hours, or visiting with family or friends who have air conditioning.
- Electric fans may provide comfort but will not prevent heat-related illnesses on very hot days.
- Always check your backseat for children, pets, and vulnerable adults before exiting your vehicle. Never leave children, adults, and pets alone inside a vehicle on a warm day, even with the window cracked. Temperatures inside vehicles can become dangerous quickly.
- Take it easy when outdoors. Athletes and those who work outdoors should take short breaks in a shaded, cool area when feeling fatigued. Schedule physical activity during the morning or evening when it is cooler.
- Take pets for walk in the morning or evening when it is cooler. If the sidewalk is too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for their paws.
- Check on friends, family, and neighbors for signs of heat-related illness.