A plant being held up by hands is wilting in the hot sun

Summer Heat

I have had heart failure for four years now. Time really flies! lol :(

One thing that has taken adjustment is realizing that my body can no longer compensate for extreme weather the way it used to. I have angina, so the cold can really hurt. However, the summer is no less unpleasant. As someone who used to not mind hotter temperatures, was young, fit and healthy and did not like air conditioning, it has taken me awhile to truly understand and be able to cope with the heat. Let me share a few things I've learned/observed about my body along the way, and how I adjust.

Personal observations

The first thing I have noticed is that my body can no longer adjust to heat the way it used to. Now when it's hot I feel it pretty quickly. First of all, I just feel like I'm burning up. It just feels like I have a volcano inside of me! I feel SO hot. It's an awful feeling because I would categorize it as more than uncomfortable; sometimes I just want to crawl out of my own skin. I can also have increased shortness of breath. Like if I'm trying to climb stairs in a place where it's hot, I know now to expect a lot more trouble and minimize/eliminate it when I can.

My boyfriend will be next to me, feeling fine, and touch me and say that I'm BURNING UP. So it's not just in my head!

What is this? I did a little digging, and an article I read says it's true that heart failure patients can be disposed to heat intolerance. Basically, 'thermal regulation' can be compromised with elevated temperature and exercise.1

Tips for how to cope with summer heat and heart failure

Here's what I do:

  • I have found that firstly, cool is cool. Fans help to an extent; however, when I start feeling overheated, I have to be in air conditioning. It's just a must. My boyfriend tends to want to minimize the air conditioning to save money, which I get. However, my thermal regulations override. If you do not have central air, I'd consider a window air conditioner so you have one room that you can go to when you need colder air. Also, think about public places that have air conditioning that you can spend time at during the day. Like a mall, cafe's, etc. Also, keep in mind that exercise makes it worse. Please realize that a really hot day may not be the ideal time to take that long walk outside, especially if it's not shaded. I would utilized malls and Target for walking, both in the winter and summer. Consider other options like that!
  • I have also found that ice packs can work wonders. We have a very large ice pack that I can put on my forehead or stomach. The other thing to do, and it sounds odd, but get a small icepack to put in your armpits. I warned you... Another trick I've found is cold fruit! I keep frozen berries in the fridge, and when I'm trying to stay cool, it's not to pop those in my mouth, and they help me stick to the fluid restrictions even during the summer.
  • Also, if you are outside, try to adapt. Wear a hat and ride in a car with air conditioning. Be ready so that if you feel that you are getting to that point you know what to do. I've learned that your body knows when something is up, and it's far easier to have a plan. If you can at least go to places that have shade, or you can bring your own shade, I'd try to do that if you must venture outside when it's super hot.

What experiences do you have coping with summer heat and heart failure? Do you have any tips to share with the community? Click the button below to share!

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