It’s no secret that summer temperatures bring discomfort and health risks, especially those who are more sensitive to heat. But for older adults, the combination of heat and high blood pressure medication can accelerate the harmful effects of sun exposure.
Additionally, humidity can make cardiovascular problems worse and increase the chances of stroke.
When the mercury starts rising, it’s time to take a look at your prescriptions and talk to your doctor about any side effects that can be exasperated by the heat.
Humidity, Heat, and High Blood Pressure Medication
The first step to staying safe this summer is knowing when it’s safe to spend time outdoors. A muggy day can make even a mild day feel hotter than it is, so keep an eye on the forecast when planning outings, shopping, and other outdoor activities.
High humidity (70% or higher) impedes your ability to sweat, which is the body’s natural cooling process.
Not only that, but even moderate temperatures can increase the risk of heat and high blood pressure medication.
Seventy degrees may feel like the perfect day, but it is actually the point where problems can start to happen.
Heat and humidity accelerate blood flow to the skin, causing the heart to work harder. In turn, this raises blood pressure and makes it difficult for the body to regulate its internal temperature.
Even on non-humid days, hot temps cause excessive sweating, which causes dehydration from decreased fluids, lowering the system’s volume of blood.
Furthermore, dehydration compounds these problems and make it difficult for the heart to regulate the body’s internal temperature.
So, stay hydrated throughout the summer, even when you don’t feel thirsty or stay indoors.
Risk Factors for Humid Days
Humidity and heat can be a danger to anyone, but some individuals are more susceptible to the harmful effects of a stifling summer day.
Risk factors include:
- People older than 50
- Those who are overweight
- A low-sodium diet
- Health conditions affecting the heart, lungs, or kidneys
- Poor blood circulation
- Diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers
There are two reasons why the combination of heat and high blood pressure medication can increase risk factors.
First, some prescriptions already work to rid the body of fluids, whether it is sweat or urine.
The addition of high temperatures causes the body to sweat even more, which increases the likelihood of dehydration.
Secondly, heat and high blood pressure medication dilate blood vessels, which can cause a dip in blood pressure. In turn, this may make the prescription feel stronger.
Meanwhile, don’t stop your medicine without first talking to your doctor. If you feel like you are at risk for heat-related illness, drink plenty of water and try not to spend long periods outside.
Signs of Heat Stress
Heat-related illness can happen to anyone, so learn the signs and symptoms and can protect yourself and others throughout the summer.
- Fluttering, quick pulse
- Profuse perspiration, or a lack of sweat
- Cramping muscles
- Skin becomes clammy to the touch
- Swelling of the feet or ankles
- Urine appears dark
- Confusion or dizziness
If you experience any of these symptoms, find an air-conditioned place, or find a shaded spot if you can’t go inside.
Additionally, drink lots of water or a sports drink to replenish electrolytes. Or, if possible, take a cold bath or shower and rest afterward.
If the condition does not improve, call a doctor right away.
Ways to Stay Healthy and Safe
The risk factors that increase the effects of heat and high blood pressure medication are sometimes inevitable.
However, there are several precautions you can take to stay safe all summer long.
- Drink lots of water, even when you don’t feel thirsty.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages and drinks with a lot of sugar
- Remember to take periodic breaks indoors or in a shady place when outdoors.
- Don’t wear unnecessary clothing or clothes that are dark-colored or tight-fitting.
- Wear footwear and socks that don’t trap heat or lock in moisture.
- Avoid going outside between noon and 3 PM if possible.
- Wear hats and apply sunscreen often.
Know Your Medicine’s Side Effects
Several medicines can enhance heat sensitivity, so those taking medication should review the side effects and asses their risk for heat-related illness.
- Allergy drugs (loratadine, promethazine)
- Muscle spasm drugs (atropine, scopolamine)
- Belladonna alkaloids
- Medications for mental illness (thioridazine, chlorpromazine, prochlorperazine)
- Tranquilizers (phenothiazines, butyrophenones, thioxanthenes)
- High blood pressure drugs (mecamylamine, beta-blockers)
- Migraine drugs (triptans)
- Ephedrine or pseudoephedrine (OTC decongestant, Sudafed)
- ADHD drugs (amphetamines)
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