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Published on August 04, 2015

Keeping your heart healthy while you exercise in the heat

By Melanie Lawson, News4JAX

When you're exercising the heat and humidity makes it harder for the heart to pump blood throughout the body and keep you cool. As your heart pumps harder and strains, you sweat more making dehydration something heart patients need to really be aware of when working out.

You don't even have to be exercising outside to work up a sweat. Just stepping outside for any length of time can cause you to sweat. But even with this heat and humidity die hard runners still hit the pavement.

"I just do it and try to avoid the sun by just going in the shade," says Luis Gonzalez.

Luis Gonzalez is one of those people and even he had a scare at one point.

"All I remember is I was running and I passed out. I got taken to the hospital because I was really dehydrated," says Gonzalez.

So now he makes sure to drink water before, during and after his routine. Dr. Saumil Oza, the head of Cardiology at St Vincent's Healthcare, says hydration is imperative.

"As the body begins to sweat, you not only lose water but electrolytes and imbalance in the electrolytes and less fluid in your body causes your body to begin to cramp up. You get cramps in your legs and arms and abdomen these are called heat cramps," says Oza.

If you don't drink water and cool down it can develop into heat exhaustion or heat stroke, which is deadly. Dr. Oza says it's important to understand what happens to your body when you work out.

"When you exercise several things happen to your body let's start with the heart. The heart starts to beat more rapidly and contract more vigorously in order to get more blood flow to your organs your muscles need a lot more blood flow to them for example when you're running," says Oza.

Dr. Oza says during this process the blood flow to other non-vital organs start to decrease. Also your lungs need more oxygen, that's why you breathe more deeply and faster. Your blood vessels start to expand and that's why some people get flush. The heat itself adds even more stress to the body.

"People with coronary artery disease or blockages in the arteries tend to have more complications due to heat and exercise. People with previous heart disorders, heart arrhythmia, also tend to have those sorts of problems so you definitely have to consult with your physician before you start an exercise regimen if you have those types of heart problems," says Oza.

Dr. Oza also said some heart medications make it harder for your body to cool down. For example, beta-blockers slow your heartbeat, which makes it more difficult to regulate heat exchange throughout the body. People on diuretics are more susceptible to dehydration. Other medications to watch out for are ace receptor blockers, ace inhibitors and calcium channel blockers. With that said, you should always take your medicine, but it's important to know exactly how it affects your ability to handle the summer weather.

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