Heatwave and Heart Failure

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A heatwave can greatly destabilize the condition of a patient with heart failure.

What is a heatwave?

According to various definitions available on the web, a heatwave is a meteorological phenomenon characterized by abnormally high outdoor temperatures, which can persist from a few days to a few weeks.

For a heatwave to be classified as such, the temperature must reach 30°C (86°F) or higher for at least 3 consecutive days. 

Additionally, other factors may include high humidity levels (humidex), the formation of smog, meaning the presence of fine pollutant particles suspended in stagnant air.

In urban centers, a heatwave is exacerbated by heat islands due to the absence of greenery and the massive presence of concrete, asphalt, and tarmac.

Vulnerable People

Patients suffering from heart failure often require constant attention. The presence of a heatwave can destabilize their condition, potentially requiring hospitalization and, in the most severe cases, leading to death.

Be Careful with the Recommendations to Drink Plenty of Liquid

We have all heard the general recommendations on the radio, television, and now on the web that during a heatwave, one should drink a lot. This recommendation does not apply to patients suffering from heart failure. On the contrary, drinking a lot can precipitate pulmonary edema, commonly referred to as “having water on the lungs.”

Let’s review some tips and recommendations for these patients during a heatwave, depending on whether their home is equipped with an air conditioner or not.

Air-conditioned environment or not

A-Air Conditioner at Home

For people with an air conditioner, this weather condition does not change the recommendations and advice given to patients suffering from heart failure, except that long sessions outside and outdoor work should be avoided.

Walking outside is allowed, but it is preferable to do it very early in the morning or in the evening. If it has to be done during the day, it should be shorter and followed by a rest period indoors.

B-Home Without Air Conditioner

This situation is a bit more problematic.

There is no doubt that the number of heatwave days is increasing every year. It would therefore be wise to invest in air conditioning for the residence or, at the very least, for one room in the house.

Alternatively, for prolonged heatwave periods, it would be desirable for the patient to stay with a family member whose residence is equipped with an air conditioner.

Shopping Centers

For some, the above options may not be feasible. In this case, it is recommended to go to shopping centers or other air-conditioned public places.

In General

Instructions

The basic treatment includes the following elements:

  • Take your prescribed medication
  • Maintain an adequate, low-salt diet
  • Limit daily fluid intake to less than 2 liters, including all liquids
  • Consume alcohol in restricted quantities, which is included in the fluid limit
  • Engage in regular physical activity
  • Plan rest periods
  • Weigh yourself regularly in the morning
  • Quit smoking

This disease gives thirst

Illness makes you thirsty. The temptation to drink can always be present! To help quench your thirst, place small fruits in the freezer. Simply take one, let it melt in your mouth, and then swallow it. Unlike ice cubes or popsicles, small fruits do not count towards the fluid restriction.

It is important to closely follow medication recommendations. Stopping medication is often the cause of a return to the hospital.

Sweat

It is a misconception that sweating represents a significant loss of water. Exceeding the fluid restriction must be done with caution. Monitoring weight is essential. A slight daily increase in weight is an indication of water retention, which can predict complications. Therefore, it should be addressed by reducing fluid intake in the following days.

If the weight continues to increase, notify the professional responsible for the heart failure clinic if you are part of one. Otherwise, try to contact your doctor or consult a doctor at a clinic or the emergency department of a hospital.

Water Retention

It is important to know that when weight increases in a few days, it is not weight gain in fat but in water. This water is distributed throughout the body.

Just like swollen legs, the intestine can accumulate excess water in its walls, which reduces the absorption of medication. Consequently, the effectiveness of the treatment is diminished or even nullified.

Avoiding Hospitalizations

This is why monitoring weight is important and vigilance is necessary. The goal is to pay attention to your health and avoid hospitalizations as much as possible.

Thirst Can Be at Its Peak

During a heatwave, for patients without an air conditioner, managing thirst is even more challenging. Heart failure already causes increased thirst, and the heat intensifies it, making the temptation to drink even stronger.

Tip about thirst; frozen berry!

As mentioned above, to help quench your thirst, place small fruits in the freezer. Simply take one, let it melt in your mouth, and then swallow it. Unlike ice cubes or popsicles, small fruits do not count towards the fluid restriction.

Once again, the instructions

Once Again, the Instructions During this period of vulnerability, the instructions are even more important. Here they are again:

  • Take your prescribed medication properly
  • Maintain an adequate, low-salt diet
  • Limit daily fluid intake to less than 2 liters, including all liquids
  • Consume alcohol in restricted quantities, which is included in the fluid limit
  • Engage in regular physical activity
  • Plan rest periods
  • Weigh yourself regularly in the morning
  • Quit smoking

Surveillance duty

It is important to remind that it is essential to follow the medication recommendations closely. Stopping medication is often the cause of a return to the hospital.

Do not forget this general public safety instruction: in these extreme times, it is important to watch for possible distress in people in our family and immediate vicinity.