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Thermal stress causes heart diseases

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By Mercy Kelani

High humidity can have negative impacts on heart health, says cardiologist.

Prof. Basil Okeahialam, an expert in the field, has emphasized the potential risks to heart health posed by the current high levels of humidity in various regions of the country. Proper management of this issue is crucial to prevent any negative impact on cardiovascular well-being. During an interview in Umuahia, Professor Okeahialam, who specializes in Cardiology at the University of Jos in Plateau, issued a cautionary statement on February 17, 2024. He warned that individuals at risk for hypertension and heart diseases may experience earlier onset of symptoms in the current weather without proper precautions.

Absolutely, without a doubt, high humidity can have negative impacts on heart health through a phenomenon known as thermal stress. In conditions of high temperature and humidity, the body is subjected to significant thermal stress, which places additional strain on the heart and requires it to work harder. Human bodies are designed to keep their core temperature stable within a narrow range in order to function properly, preventing wide fluctuations in temperature that could disrupt normal bodily processes.

Individuals naturally release fluids and electrolytes through perspiration.

However, in situations of high temperature and humidity, the heart works harder to regulate body temperature within the necessary low range due to the reduced effectiveness of heat transfer to the environment. Okeahialam explains that the effort to regulate body temperature in order to maintain optimal bodily functions is what places strain on the heart due to thermal stress. He explained that while a healthy heart can handle thermal stress quite well, humans may feel discomfort and seek ways to cool down when their hearts are under such pressure.

More so, when the heart is afflicted with disease and requires time to recuperate in order to operate efficiently, exposing it to excessive heat and providing it with too much fluid may lead to heart failure. Individuals with fragile hearts may be at risk of heart failure when exposed to extreme heat, such as the current weather conditions. Okeahialam explained that in conditions of high humidity, individuals naturally release fluids and electrolytes through perspiration as a way for the body to regulate its temperature and cool down.

He cautioned against spending too much time under the AC.

Furthermore, he observed that consuming water by itself may not be sufficient, as it could potentially lead to other issues within the body if only fluids and electrolytes are replenished. The scholar advised seeking out cool environments, dressing in lightweight attire, and consuming juicy fruits such as watermelon, cucumber, cashew, and opete (Costus afar) to stay hydrated and replenish electrolytes. He cautioned against spending too much time under the air conditioner, as he believed it could put a strain on the heart and hinder the body’s ability to maintain its ideal temperature for optimal performance.

In response to information in the safety guide allegedly issued by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), Okeahialam stated that there was no need to eliminate protein-rich foods from one’s diet. He emphasized the importance of taking care of both the heart and kidneys during high humidity, as they can both be negatively impacted by such weather conditions. The professor warned against increasing protein intake in high humidity weather, as it could put strain on the kidneys.

Related Article: Alarming Increase in Cardiovascular Disease

Additionally, he emphasized that Nigerians already consume insufficient amounts of protein, so there was no need to worry about following this particular dietary advice. Consuming a quarter of a goat at a single meal in Europe could potentially strain the kidneys due to the high protein content in the diet, particularly when the body is dealing with heat stress. He expressed that he believes decreasing protein intake is not the right approach for Nigerians, as they typically don’t consume high amounts of protein in their meals, he remarked.

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