Heart-protecting drugs that backfire when it’s hot out

I don’t know about where you live, but here in Maine, known for its cool weather, we’re still experiencing temperatures worthy of tank tops and iced tea.

In other parts of the country, summer weather is still the norm, so it’s good to keep in mind the health risks that increase when heat and humidity are high.

One of these is the risk of heart attack.

Winter is already known as “heart attack season.” But summer, too, increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

And according to a recent study, hot weather now presents a new hazard.

It seems that the very medications that are supposed to protect your heart could elevate heart attack risk during the summer months.

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Heart drugs that increase risk during heat waves

For people with coronary heart disease, beta-blockers can improve the odds of survival, while aspirin and other antiplatelet medications can reduce heart attack risk.

But here’s something ironic:

When the weather is hot, these two drugs might actually increase the risk of heart attack!

A study led by Dr. Kai Chen of the Yale School of Public Health found a connection between hot-weather heart attacks and the use of either aspirin or beta-blockers.

The study authors looked at nearly 2500 cases in which patients experienced a non-fatal heart attack during the summer months.

Their approach was simple: they compared heat exposure on the day of the heart attack to heat exposure during the same days of the week within the same month.

For example, if a person had a heart attack on the third Thursday in June, they compared that person’s heat exposure on that day to other “control” Thursdays in June.

It turned out that people who were using either aspirin or beta-blockers were more likely to have a heart attack during the hottest days as compared to the control days.

Aspirin use was associated with a 63 percent higher risk and beta-blockers with a 65 percent higher risk.

People taking both drugs had a 75 percent higher risk of heart attack.

The study doesn’t prove that the medications caused the heart attacks. But there is one clue.

Younger patients (ages 25 to 59 years) who took these drugs had a higher risk of heart attack than older patients (60 to 74 years) who did not, despite the fact that susceptibility to heart attack tends to increase with age.

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The takeaway: Keep your heart safe during the heat

“Patients taking these two medications have higher risk,” says Dr. Chen. “During heat waves, they should really take precautions.” 

That means avoiding the heat and spending more time indoors.

Consider supplementing folic acid to survive the heat. Penn State researchers found the B vitamin worked as well in helping people keep their cool as did an expensive drug.

Even if you’re not using these medications, these tips for heart-safe physical activity during extreme heat from the American Heart Association and the British Heart Foundation are important:

  • Wear the right shoes. Believe it or not, when you exercise in the heat, you sweat the most in your shoes. Choose well-ventilated shoes and socks. Use foot powders that help to absorb sweat.
  • Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing in breathable fabrics like cotton. Wear a hat in extreme heat.
  • Stay hydrated! Drink a few cups of water before, during, and after you exercise. Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic drinks.
  • Take regular breaks.  Find a cool or shady spot, stop for a few minutes, hydrate, then start again.
  • Watch the clock. Avoid outdoor activity between noon and 3 pm when the sun is at its strongest.
  • Use waterproof sunblock and re-apply as needed. A sunburn makes it harder for your body to stay cool.

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Sources:

Two heart medications tied to greater heart-attack risk during very hot weather — Eureka Alert

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Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.