3 Tips on Staying Hydrated for Heart Health

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Meteorologists and public health officials are warning everyone to be vigilant about the big heat wave that will hit the southern and eastern U.S. this weekend. They strongly encourage everyone to stay indoors as much as possible — and to stay hydrated.

Richard C. Becker, MD
, the Stonehill Endowed Professor of Medicine, the chief of the division of cardiovascular health and disease, and physician in chief of the University of Cincinnati Heart, Lung, and Vascular Institute.
But people with heart conditions are especially vulnerable to heat-related illness. Some heart medications are diuretics, which increase the amount of water removed from the body. Also, if you have
heart disease
, your heart may not be able to work as hard as necessary to cool your body down, which can result in heatstroke.
Being prepared for extreme weather is key to staying healthy. Here are three tips to stay hydrated for heart health.
1. Don’t Wait to Drink
Staying hydrated is one of the most important steps you can take to ward off heat-related illness. Proper hydration reduces strain on your heart. According to the
American Heart Association
, when you’re hydrated, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood throughout your body.
But it may not be as easy to achieve as you think. When your body’s core temperature warms up past its normal range, your body’s thirst mechanism suffers.
“You lose a little bit of your ability to respond to your thirst reflex,” says Dr. Becker.
In other words, don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink water.

By the time you feel thirsty, you may already be dehydrated.
How much is enough
? It varies by person, but generally speaking, adult men should aim for 15 eight-ounce glasses of water on a regular day, and women should drink 11 glasses. When it’s hot, you probably need to drink more. (And if you sweat heavily, you may need more.)
On the other hand, people with
heart failure
tend to retain fluids, and often take diuretics. If you have heart failure, talk to your doctor about the best way to make sure you’re staying appropriately hydrated. And do not stop taking your medication without first speaking to your doctor.
2. Avoid Common Triggers for Dehydration
Certain seemingly everyday activities may overtax your heart in the heat, so it’s important to take it easy and limit your exposure to common triggers of dehydration like strenuous exercise, or alcohol, which is a diuretic.
3. Monitor Yourself for Heat Exhaustion
During extreme heat, it’s important to always have water at the ready to stay hydrated. Overheating can cause serious problems including heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Symptoms for these conditions are sometimes the same, and include:
Weakness

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