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Mayo: ‘Heat and humidity can be especially dangerous to people with high blood pressure’

Weather can play a role in triggering certain health problems. High temperatures and high humidity are two factors that can cause serious health consequences for people with high blood pressure and heart disease.

“Blood pressure can be affected in summer weather because of the body’s attempts to radiate heat,” said Heather Mpemwangi, a nurse practitioner in Cardiology at Mayo Clinic Health System. “High temperatures and high humidity can cause more blood flow to the skin. This then causes the heart to beat faster while circulating twice as much blood per minute than on a normal day. “

The greatest risks are when the temperature is above 70 degrees F and the humidity is more than 70%. The higher the humidity, the more moisture in the air.

“Some people are at higher risk,” Mpemwangi said. “For example, individuals over the age of 50; those who are overweight; or those who have heart, lung or kidney conditions may be more affected by humidity. Heat and sweating can also lower the amount of fluid in the body, which can reduce blood volume and lead to dehydration. This can interfere with the body’s ability to cool off and may create strain on the heart.”

Other factors include:

  • Adults with heart, lung and kidney problems;
  • Seniors who follow a low-salt or low-sodium diet;
  • People who have a circulatory disease or problems with circulation; and
  • Adults who take diuretics, sedatives and blood pressure medication.

Mpemwangi reminds patients to track their blood pressure the best they can during heat waves. Patients also should stay hydrated, avoid midday heat, eat smart, apply sunscreen and wear a hat. In most cases, when in doubt, stay home.

Warning signs that your body isn’t keeping up with the heat include:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Disorientation
  • Rapid pulse
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Excessive sweating or an inability to sweat
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Muscle cramps or spasms
  • Swelling in extremities

Mpemwangi suggests if you or a loved one are exhibiting more than one or two of these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical intervention immediately.