8 Ways to Prevent Afib in Summer in 2022
Extreme summer weather can cause dehydration and puts extra strain on the heart. Find out what to do about it.
If you’re one of the 2.7 million Americans living with atrial fibrillation (AFib) — a heart arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat — you may have noticed that a change of season affects the condition. Hot temperatures require your heart to work harder because of the heat stress, triggering an episode of atrial fibrillation.
In addition, extreme heat can also raise your risk for stroke and heart failure, two other potentially fatal cardiovascular events that can be triggered by an AFib attack, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Luckily, there are a few key habits you can adopt to keep your heart safe in warmer months.
1. Protect Your Skin from the Sun
Use sunscreen stay out of the sun and Avoid the outdoors during the afternoon, when the sun’s UV rays are at their strongest, and instead opt to get some fresh air only after the sun goes down or temperatures cool.
If you do find yourself needing to be outside during the heat of the day, be sure to wear sunscreen. Sunburn hinders your body’s ability to cool off, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And when you’re indoors, try to spend time in air-conditioned spaces, take a cold shower, or use ice packs to stay cool.
2. Hydrate to Keep Your Heart Rate Regular
Stay hydrated drink water
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), staying hydrated helps the heart more easily pump blood to the muscles. But your body loses fluids and blood salts through sweat, the main mechanism through which the human body cools itself. As a result, being in the heat can make you dangerously dehydrated.
“Loss of fluid [and blood salts] can trigger an arrhythmia,” says Smit Vasaiwala, MD, an associate professor of cardiology at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood, Illinois, who says that the main risk factor for atrial fibrillation in high heat is dehydration.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, you should try to drink 6 to 12 ounces of water — about half to a little less than a full pint glass — every 10 to 15 minutes that you are outside being active.
“To avoid arrhythmias in the heat, it is important to keep drinking, even if you don’t feel thirsty,” Dr. Vasaiwala says. “And keep water with you when you go outside.”
3. Stay Indoors in Extreme Heat and Rest Your Heart
Stay Indoors in Extreme Heat and Rest Your Heart
Even if you drink plenty of water while spending time outside on summer days, your heart will still need to work harder in hot weather, which can be dangerous, especially if you have an underlying heart condition.
“Increasing the workload of your heart can both trigger atrial fibrillation and increase your risk for congestive heart failure,” Vasaiwala says. In addition to stroke, congestive heart failure is the other common complication of atrial fibrillation, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Congestive heart failure is a gradual weakening of your heart that may cause fluid to collect in your lungs and legs. So to be on the safe side, stay inside on extremely hot days to avoid the heat as much as possible, says Vasaiwala.
4. Avoid Exercising Outside so You Don’t Trigger Afib
For some people, intense exercise is a main trigger for heart arrhythmia on its own — although getting regular exercise is a key factor in keeping your heart healthy. However, exercising in the heat adds another potentially stressful component.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the strain put on your heart increases with exercise, especially in hot weather. In fact, for every 1 degree Fahrenheit that your body temperature rises, your heart pumps an additional 10 beats per minute. Vasaiwala says that it’s best to fight the urge to spend time outside and to avoid exercising outside on hot days if you have a heart condition.
Wear Light Clothing to Keep Body Temps Steady
5. Wear Light Clothing to Keep Body Temps Steady
According to the Mayo Clinic, the combination of high body temperature and dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion, or heatstroke.
Symptoms include dizziness, nausea, flushed skin, headache, confusion, slurred speech, dry (not sweaty or slightly sweaty) skin, and a rapid heartbeat. If you have a heart condition like atrial fibrillation, you’re at higher risk.
A small study published online in June 2019 in the journal Heart Asia found that nearly a quarter of the 50 heatstroke patients examined had an atrial arrhythmia. Wearing thick clothing that doesn’t let out heat can cause your body temperature to rise even more than it otherwise would.
“If you have to be out in hot weather, wear light clothing and avoid the hottest time of the day,” says Vasaiwala, who says that lightweight, breathable clothing is less likely to trap heat against your body.
6. Avoid Dehydrating Alcohol
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes a person to urinate more frequently, which further increases the risk for dehydration, even if you’re drinking water. For this reason, alcohol can create a heart health risk, especially in hot weather.
Alcohol can also affect your body’s ability to regulate your temperature, according to the Mayo Clinic. Drink water when you can and try swapping that beer for a cooling mocktail
7. Buddy Up for Safety in Case Heat Causes Symptoms
According to Vasaiwala, you should use the buddy system if you have a heart condition such as atrial fibrillation and plan to be outside in extreme heat.
Make sure the people you are with know the signs of both heat exhaustion and atrial fibrillation, and the proper response. According to the AHA, many heart conditions share the same warning signs, but fluttering and palpitations are hallmarks of afib.
If you start to notice palpitations or the signs of heat exhaustion, get out of the heat, remove your clothing if possible, and cool off with a cool, damp towel and air-conditioning.
However, Vasaiwala says to seek immediate medical treatment if you experience vomiting, chest pain, or shortness of breath.
8. Always Check the Heat Index
The heat index takes both temperature and humidity into account, calculating the “feels like” temperature, which may be hotter than the temperature reading alone, according to the National Weather Service.
According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the human body naturally releases sweat when body temperature rises. Normally, sweat evaporates off the skin, creating a cooling effect.
But in humid weather, sweat can’t evaporate as efficiently — or sometimes at all — meaning your body isn’t able to cool itself. You should be cautious when the heat index is above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Weather Service. You can find the heat index for your area at Weather.gov.
How do you stop AFib from happening?
You may be able to keep your heart pumping smoothly for a long time if you:
- manage your blood pressure.
- manage your cholesterol levels.
- eat a heart-healthy diet.
- exercise for 20 minutes most days of the week.
- quit smoking if you smoke.
- maintain a healthy weight.
- get enough sleep.
- drink alcohol in moderation.
Does humidity affect AFib?
Hot, humid weather is unpleasant for everyone, but it can be especially dangerous for people living with atrial fibrillation, or AFib.
Can you reverse AFib?
Right now, there’s no cure for it. But certain treatments can make symptoms go away for a long time for some people. No matter what, there are many ways to manage AFib that can help you live a healthy, active life.
Can hot weather trigger AFib?
In high temperatures, your heart works harder because of the heat stress, which can potentially trigger an episode of atrial fibrillation. Extreme heat can also raise your risk for serious complications from an AFib episode, such as stroke and heart failure.
Can being too hot cause atrial fibrillation?
Hot weather can trigger Afib.
Hot temperatures require your heart to work harder because of the heat stress, potentially triggering an episode of atrial fibrillation.
Does drinking water help AFib?
When you have atrial fibrillation, drinking enough water is important. Electrolyte levels plummet when you’re dehydrated. This can lead to abnormal heart rhythm. When you’re dehydrated, your body’s electrolytes (electrolytes in general, and sodium and potassium in particular) are crucial for heart health.
Can magnesium cure AFib?
There have been no long-term clinical trials to date that demonstrate replacing magnesium reduces or reverses atrial fibrillation. This means that there are no clinical studies at this time that have shown that people who take magnesium supplements for years have improved or reversed their AFib.
Why do I get palpitations in hot weather?
Radiation requires rerouting blood flow so more of it goes to the skin. This makes the heart beat faster and pump harder. On a hot day, it may circulate two to four times as much blood each minute as it does on a cool day.
Can dehydration cause AFib?
Whether from consuming excess caffeine or alcohol or a lack of water, dehydration is a very common trigger for atrial fibrillation.
What temperature is too hot for heart patients?
Precautions are especially important for older adults and people with high blood pressure, obesity or a history of heart disease and stroke. Temperatures exceeding 100°F or even temperatures in the 80s with high humidity can cause a dangerous heat index that can be hard on the heart.
Can atrial fibrillation be caused by anxiety?
Stress can contribute to heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias) such as atrial fibrillation. Some studies suggest that stress and mental health issues may cause your atrial fibrillation symptoms to worsen. High levels of stress may also be linked to other health problems.
Should you fly with atrial fibrillation?
Patients who are asymptomatic or symptomatically stable should not be restricted from flying. Patients with permanent or persistent atrial fibrillation can fly after adequate rate control and anticoagulation. Patients with a history of ventricular arrhythmia are advised to consult their doctor before air travel.
Why do athletes get atrial fibrillation?
Triggers of AF in athletes may include atrial ectopy and sports supplements. Substrates for AF in athletes include atrial remodeling, fibrosis, and inflammation. Modulators of AF in athletes include autonomic activation, electrolyte abnormalities, and possibly, gastroesophageal reflux.
Is AFib common after exercise?
Exercise is an emerging cause of atrial fibrillation (AF) in young individuals without coexisting cardiovascular risk factors. The causes of exercise-induced atrial fibrillation remain largely unknown, and conclusions are jeopardised by apparently conflicting data.
Is heart failure worse in hot weather?
Hot weather means your body has to work harder to keep its core temperature to normal levels, and this puts extra strain on your heart, lungs and kidneys. This means that you can be at greater risk if you have a heart condition. So it’s particularly important to stay cool and hydrated.
Why can’t I tolerate heat?
Those with heat intolerance may have a disorder called dysautonomia that affects their autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system helps regulate automatic functions of the body, including the body’s response to heat. Several medical conditions can cause dysautonomia, including: diabetes.
What temperature should heart patients avoid?
When the outdoor temperature climbs into the 80s (Fahrenheit) or high 20s (Celsius) or beyond and there is high humidity, the risk to your health also rises. If you have heart disease, it is especially critical that you avoid exercising when the temperature and the humidity are both high
Can a person with AFIB use a hot tubs?
Go ahead and relax – but safely
“My best advice is to make sure the water temperature is not too high, to stay hydrated, and if you choose to use a hot tub or sauna ― especially if you are a heart patient ― engage in the activity for only brief periods of time.”
Why does the heat bother me as I get older?
Older bodies also hold more heat than younger ones when the temperature climbs. Glands don’t release as much sweat. The heart doesn’t circulate blood as well, so less heat is released from vessels in the skin. Systems from the cardiovascular to the immune struggle to compensate.
Can hot weather cause heart attacks?
External environmental factors like air pollution and cold weather can trigger heart attacks. Growing evidence suggests hot weather can do so, too.
Is there a medication for heat intolerance?
Heat intolerance is not something that can be treated with medication, but there are measures you can take to reduce the risk of overheating: Take a cold shower or bath. Use cold washrags or ice packs on your neck and wrists.
Is cold weather good for heart patients?
Cold weather is bad for heart patients because it makes arteries constrict. When this happens, blood flow and delivery of oxygen to the heart are decreased and it can increase the formation of blood clots. Keep your heart going strong this winter with these cold-weather tips.
Does cold weather affect atrial fibrillation?
Cold weather is associated with increased risk of ischaemic stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation, according to new research. The study in nearly 290,000 patients suggests that cool climate may be an underrated issue for health that deserves more attention.