A Healthy & Happy Summertime Heart

The higher temperatures of the summer combined with greater opportunities for outdoor activities can put more of a strain on our hearts and force them to be overworked. Hot weather heart attacks and other heart issues are problems that affect many Canadians during the summer months, so ensuring you are taking the right steps to protect your heart is vital.

This week, we are taking a look at how to identify if your heart is ready for outdoor summertime activities and what steps you can take to protect it while you enjoy the weather.

Unsure About the Health of Your Heart?

Do not attempt to push yourself too hard if you aren’t sure about the current state of your heart’s health. Start out with low-intensity activities like walking or jogging around your block and see how you feel to get a general idea of what you are comfortable with. Getting a good physical grasp of your fitness level is often a much better way to judge your overall health than by simply looking at factors such as your cholesterol level or family heart history.

For those who are completely hesitant about seeing which physical activities they are comfortable with or have worries about the health of their heart, checking with your doctor is also a great first step. Voice your concerns to your physician and follow the recommendations that he or she proposes so you can know what activities will be best for your heart.

Choosing the Right Summertime Foods

It’s incredibly tempting to just let go and enjoy the various unhealthy eating habits of the season, but in order to keep your heart healthy, you’ll need to turn to some more beneficial options. Since barbecue season is upon us, we’ve got some heart-healthy summer foods to include at your next get-together.

Avocado

Adding avocado to your chicken or beef burger is a great way to give it a boost of fiber that will help lower your cholesterol levels. If burgers aren’t your ideal summertime dish, you can simply add avocado to your salad with other fruits and berries for the same effect.

Pomegranate Juice & Red Wine

Pomegranate juice is packed with antioxidants that will help with inflammation, high blood pressure, and atherogenesis. Red wine also has antioxidants that will help to protect the lining of the blood vessels in your heart and prevent cardiovascular diseases. Always drink red wine in moderation and never use it as a complete substitute for a heart-healthy drink.

Fresh Salmon

This great alternative traditional red meat is rich in omega 3s which helps reduce blood pressure and clotting. If salmon isn’t your favourite, you can try other oily fish like tuna, herring, and mackerel to help give yourself an omega 3 boost.

Grilled Asparagus

While you’re grilling your burgers and fish, try throwing some asparagus on the barbecue to add some tasty vegetables to your summer lunch or dinner meal. Like some of the above foods, asparagus is full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients that help fight type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Try adding some asparagus to a grilled vegetable shish kabob for a more nutritious and fun vegetable dish.

Legumes

Throwing together a healthy bean salad is an excellent way to add a flavoursome addition to your next summer party. Legumes like beans, peas, and lentils are full of fiber and antioxidants that will help promote healthier heart activity by lowering both cholesterol and blood pressure as well as reducing inflammation in your heart and arteries. As a side note, try adding cherry tomatoes and peppers to your salad to give it an additional delicious burst of flavour.

Heart-Focused Exercising

Endurance or “cardio” exercises are the best workouts to help maintain a healthy heart and include activities like biking, running, walking, and swimming. These exercises may be great during the summer season, but there are some factors you should take note of before taking them on.

Before you begin, make sure you are heading out at the right time of the day. During the summer, the hottest period of the day is typically from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Exercising during this time will put unnecessary strain on your body and can lead to over exhaustion and dehydration if you aren’t properly prepared. Stick to working out in the early morning, at sunset or at a later time to make sure you’re completing your routine at a comfortable outdoor temperature.

Don’t wear darker colours as you exercise because they attract more sunlight and will make you feel hotter at a faster rate. Also, avoid heavier and tight-fitting clothing and opt for loose and light workout gear to help your body breathe and allow air to circulate.

Finally, bring water with you for any cardio activity and always know when to stop. Being exposed to high temperatures without proper hydration allows your body to increase in temperature without any relief. You can also take short breaks in between workouts and eat some fruit or vegetables to help replace electrolytes lost during exercise instead of using specialized drinks that often have too much sugar.

Serious Signs

If you are feeling faint or sick during your workout, stop immediately and take yourself to a shady spot to sit down and hydrate. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are two real possibilities that can happen to you if you don’t hydrate yourself or know when to take a break.

It’s important to know the symptoms of heat stroke so you can be readily prepared when exercising this summer. Rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, confusion, disorientation, flushed red & hot skin, absence of sweating, and a rapid pulse are all signs of heat stroke. If this is the case for you or others, call 911 and try to get out of the heat. Drink cool water, apply ice packs to your body and fan it to help get your body back to a normal temperature.

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