New studies have found that high levels of humidity may prove to be deadly in elderly patients and can aid heart attacks. Many people suffer from heat-related illnesses when their bodies are unable to cope with fluctuations in temperature. Those individuals, who already suffer from heart failure, are at a much greater risk because heat and humidity exacerbate heart problems.
What is the relation between humidity and heart problems?
A study conducted in 2005 by UT Southwestern and the Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas was based on the statistics offered by a heatwave that hit Chicago in 1995. It was found that many of the people who had died, had a prior heart condition.
This made researchers ponder over the relation between heart failure and humidity. A study was conducted with 28 participants, all between the ages of 47 and 55. Exactly half the participants had congestive heart failure and half had healthy hearts. They were all put into tube-line suits and the water temperature was raised. This caused increases in the skin and internal temperatures. The body’s two main mechanisms for temperature control – skin-blood flow and sweating – were studied.
A heart pumps more blood to the skin surface and in turn, draws out more heat. When the outside temperature is hot, a person’s healthy heart will have to pump three times as much blood as normal. For maintaining constant blood flow and regulating body temperature, a person’s heart pumping function has to be healthy.
Therefore, in hot temperatures, it will be more difficult for the hearts of people with heart failure to pump sufficient blood. Thus, body temperature regulation will not happen, which is why people with heart failures have to take precautions in hot weather.
Warning Signs of Heat-Illnesses
Here are a few telling signs of heat-related illnesses:
- Muscle Cramps
- Nausea or Vomiting
- Heavy Sweating
- Dizziness or Headache
- Weakness or Tiredness
What should ACLS practitioners be aware of?
ACLS-certified nurses and other healthcare professionals, often deal with patients having heat-related illnesses. But there some key facts that they should be aware of, linking heat, humidity, and heart failure:
- Heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke result in extremely high body temperature, hot skin, dizziness, nausea, rapid pulse, and sometimes unconsciousness. Patients with heart failure are more affected by extreme heat. For cooling, there has to be increased blood flow to the skin; this mechanism is missing in patients with heart failure.
- Humidity also is an important factor that contributes to heart ailments and heat-related illnesses. It can also prove to be life-threatening.
What remedial measures should ACLS practitioners take?
- There are different methods for ACLS practitioners to ensure that the risk of exacerbating heart ailments is minimized. Patients should be encouraged to drink more water and take in more fluids during hot months.
- Cooling off is extremely important and heart patients have to follow this even more strictly. They can choose to stay in air-conditioned rooms or use a wet cloth or even an ice pack to stay cool.
- Meals should be light. Cold soups, salads, and fruits can be given. Water intake should occur every hour.
- The first signs of heat-related illnesses appear and practitioners must take necessary remedial steps such as getting the person to an air-conditioned space or making them drink cold water.
- Activities should be limited and clothing should be loose and light
Heat and humidity can prove to be a deadly combination in heart-failure patients. The risks are high and so it is better for ACLS practitioners to be aware of the risks of hot weather to individuals with cardiovascular disease.