Heat-related health problems

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The extreme heat in our state can cause a multitude of serious health issues, from strokes to heart attacks. Additionally, when you add medications to the mix, including over-the-counter meds, it can intensify the effect of the heat.

People on heart medications, like blood pressure medication, are particularly susceptible. Other health issues can arise from heat, like worsened mental health, increase in migraines, sleep problems, higher heart rate and lower blood pressure, as well as heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

Dr. Jesse Bracamonte, family doctor at Mayo Clinic Arizona, discussed the impact of these illnesses.

Many medical illnesses can be exacerbated by heat, according to Dr. Bracamonte.

“Cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, being overweight, even having kidney disease, can cause your circulatory system to just work harder to keep you cool,” Dr. Bracamonte said. “The harder your body has to work to keep you cool, the more risk you have for illness. Plus, those people take a lot of medicines that also can put you at risk.”

How big is the impact of dehydration in terms of volume?

“It’s significant, because the more volume you have and the more hydrated you are, the cooler your body is. It’s easier for your body to keep cool. When your body gets dehydrated, it’s harder to keep cool. Your ability to sweat diminishes and your body overheats, and therefore puts your body at risk. Your body has to work harder,” Dr. Bracamonte said.

Real world complications or symptoms include cramps, nausea or headaches. In severe cases, people can become confused. If someone is overweight or over the age of 65, there is a higher risk to experience heat-related illnesses.

Medications that cause dehydration

“Medications that can cause dehydration are like diuretics and blood pressure medicines. Common ones that even healthy, younger people take are antihistamines that we take for allergies. Arizona and allergies kind of are synonymous, so antihistamines can make you somewhat dehydrated and dry you out, so can nasal decongestants or just decongestants in general,” Dr. Bracamonte said.

Jesse Bracamonte, M.D., D.O.-, Family Doctor, Mayo Clinic Arizona

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