Heat can be hard on your heart

Everyone is trying to keep fit these days.

Not only does it feel good, keeping fit extends your life expectancy and gives you energy.

So how much is too much?

When exercising outside – a bike ride with friends, a jog in the park or just a stroll around the block – it’s important to stay safe when the temperature rises in summer, American Heart Association officials say.

Despite the heat, don’t give up on your outdoor activities.

Watch the clock and buddy up. It’s best to avoid the outdoors in the early afternoon (about noon to 3 p.m.) because the sun is usually at its strongest, putting you at higher risk for heat-related illnesses. If you can, exercise with a friend, because it’s safer – and more fun – to have someone at your side.

Here are some other tips from the American Heart Association:

– Get off on the right foot. You probably sweat the most in your shoes, so choose well-ventilated shoes and look for socks that repel perspiration. Foot powders and antiperspirants can also help with sweat.

– Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing in breathable fabrics such as cotton, or a newer fabric that repels sweat. Add a hat and/or sunglasses.

– Drink up. Before you get started, apply a water-resistant sunscreen with at least SPF 15, and reapply it every two hours. Stay hydrated by drinking a few cups of water before, during and after your exercise. Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.

– Take regular breaks. Allow your body to adapt to heat slowly through repeated gradual daily exposures. While working out, find some shade or a cool place, stop for a few minutes, hydrate and start again.

– Head indoors: when the heat gets unbearable, try indoor activities at your local fitness club or rec center like basketball, swimming, yoga or racquetball.

The American Heart Association urges everyone to use caution, maintain a safe pace and adapt to the conditions when exercising this summer. Whatever you do, don’t throw in the towel.

“It’s important to continue exercising over the summer because the effects of exercise training are rapidly lost once training stops – use it or lose it,” said Barry Franklin, Ph.D., director of the William Beaumont Hospital Cardiac Rehab and Exercise Laboratories in downstate Royal Oak.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

– Headaches.

– Heavy sweating.

– Cold, moist skin, chills.

– Dizziness or fainting (syncope).

– A weak and rapid pulse.

– Muscle cramps.

– Fast, shallow breathing.

– Nausea, vomiting or both.

If you experience these symptoms, move to a cooler place, stop exercising and cool down immediately by dousing yourself with cold water and rehydrating. It is especially useful to put ice packs on the back of your neck.

You may need to seek medical attention.

Symptoms of heat stroke – a serious, life threatening emergency

– Warm, dry skin with no sweating.

– Strong and rapid pulse.

– Confusion and/or unconsciousness.

– High fever.

– Throbbing headaches.

– Nausea, vomiting or both.

If you experience these symptoms, seek medical attention right away.

To learn more, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit www.americanheart.org.