Summer Hypertension: Prevent High Blood Pressure in Hot Weather!

Fact checked by Olga Sadouskaya, MD
Clinical Pharmacologist, Chief Medical Officer

For many people, the summer is a fun and relaxing season. But if your blood pressure is above normal, you may feel worse in the summer months. Fortunately, you can prevent and treat high blood pressure in hot weather by following a few simple, actionable steps.

What causes high blood pressure in the summer?

Summer weather can be dangerous if you have high blood pressure, especially when air humidity is high. Hot and humid weather increases blood flow to the skin, so your heart has to work harder.

One of the main reasons your blood pressure may spike in the summer is dehydration. If you sweat a lot and then forget to replenish the water and minerals you’ve lost, your blood volume decreases and your blood pressure drops. When this happens, your body may try to counteract the effect by releasing a hormone that narrows the arteries. As a result, blood pressure can rise sharply. 

High blood pressure after exercise: Can weather be the reason?

Your blood pressure increases when you exercise. This is normal because your heart works harder to deliver more oxygen-rich blood to your muscles. 

Ideally, though, your blood pressure should return back to normal within a few hours after your workout.

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But when you exercise in hot weather, you may lose more water when sweating, and dehydration can cause your blood pressure to rise as a result. 

Why is high blood pressure known as “the silent killer?” Dangers of hypertension

But why should you be thinking about high blood pressure in the first place?

Your blood pressure changes throughout the day depending on your activities and emotions. 

Sometimes it can get really high for a short period of time. This is perfectly normal as long as it gets back to normal soon enough.

However, hypertension (blood pressure that’s persistently high) is problematic.

Chronic high blood pressure is nicknamed “the silent killer” because it may show no symptoms until serious damage has been done to your body. 

And since most people don’t monitor their blood pressure regularly, they can develop hypertension without even noticing.

How does high blood pressure affect your body? Let’s take a closer look at some of the dangers of hypertension.

High blood pressure and heart disease

When your blood pressure is too high for an extended period of time, your arteries can become less elastic. This can make it harder for your heart to get enough oxygen-rich blood. The damaged arteries around the heart also become more vulnerable to atherosclerosis (a buildup of plaque in the arteries).

These changes can lead to various types of heart disease, including:

  • Coronary artery disease, which often shows up as a heavy, pressing kind of chest pain known as angina
  • Heart attack, a situation where the heart muscle gets so little oxygen that it begins to die
  • Heart failure, a condition where your heart gets too weak to provide the rest of the body with enough blood and oxygen, making you feel tired and out of breath

High blood pressure and stroke

High blood pressure is one of the main risk factors for stroke. A stroke happens when a blood vessel in the brain gets blocked by a clot or simply bursts, which causes damage to the brain. This damage can be lasting and lead to long-term disability or even death.

Controlling your blood pressure is one of the key ways to minimize your risk of stroke.

Hypertension and kidney disease

Your kidneys work hard to maintain the balance of minerals in your body, expel excess water, produce important hormones, and filter waste products out of your blood. They have a lot of tiny blood vessels so that they can filter blood effectively.

High blood pressure damages these blood vessels. This means that the kidneys can’t filter blood as well as they used to. This can be very dangerous. 

A person measuring blood pressure

In addition to this, some of the hormones produced by healthy kidneys help regulate blood pressure. Kidney disease can disrupt the production of these hormones so that high blood pressure gets even higher, causing even more kidney damage. It’s a vicious cycle that can ultimately lead to kidney failure.

High blood pressure and vision loss

Your eyes rely on many tiny blood vessels to get the oxygen and nutrients they need. When these blood vessels become damaged due to uncontrolled high blood pressure, there’s an increased risk of serious eye conditions that can ultimately lead to vision loss.

One such condition is hypertensive retinopathy, when there’s damage to the light-sensitive part of your eye.

Problems with blood vessels can also damage the nerve that connects the eye to the brain.

If you have high blood pressure, get your eyes checked regularly so that your doctor can detect early signs of damage. 

How to prevent summer hypertension

Your lifestyle habits play a key role in preventing hypertension. Even if you already have high blood pressure, you may be able to manage it without medication if you lead a healthy lifestyle. 

Here are the most important ways to prevent high blood pressure in the summer season (or, really, any time of year).

Maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight increases your risk of developing high blood pressure, so maintaining a healthy weight is worth the effort — even if you don’t care about having a “bikini body” for the summer. In fact, you can reduce your blood pressure by up to 1 mm Hg with each kilogram (a little over 2 pounds) of weight you lose.

Exercise regularly

Regular physical activity helps lower your blood pressure by 5 to 8 mm Hg. While blood pressure typically rises during a workout, exercising reduces your blood pressure over the long term. 

A woman exercising in summer to improve high blood pressure

Exercising in summer can be problematic because of the heat and the sun. You may want to exercise in the morning or in the early evening. If you prefer to exercise indoors, look for a gym with good air conditioning.

Try the DASH diet

The DASH diet is specifically designed to lower blood pressure (DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). According to this eating plan, you should eat a lot of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains, while avoiding salt and fatty meat.

Limit alcohol

Even if you can’t imagine your summer without late-night parties, consider limiting your alcohol intake. Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure and reduce the effectiveness of some medications.

Manage your stress levels

Chronic stress can lead to chronic high blood pressure. Since you can’t eliminate everything that causes stress, consider learning healthy strategies for coping with it. Ideally, talk to a mental health professional. They’ll give you tips that are best suited to your personality and situation. 

How to treat high blood pressure in the summer

Natural ways to treat high blood pressure are similar to the prevention strategies described above. However, you may also need medications prescribed by your doctor.

It’s good to know that some blood pressure medications have side effects that are more noticeable in the summer.

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Increase your fluid intake if you take diuretic medications

Diuretics are medications that make your kidneys produce more urine. This helps your body regulate blood pressure by getting rid of excess salt and water. However, if you also lose a lot of water because of sweating, you may become dehydrated. And as we’ve learned, dehydration can make your blood pressure spike.

The best way to prevent this from happening is to drink plenty of fluids and eat lots of vegetables and fruit (they have a high water content). For example, cucumbers are 96 percent water.

Be careful in the sun

Some blood pressure medications can make you more sensitive to the sun, increasing the risk of sunburn. They include:

  • Diuretics (medications that make you urinate more often)
  • Beta-blockers (meds that make your heart beat slower and with less force)
  • Vasodilators (drugs that widen your blood vessels so that blood flows with less pressure)

If you take any of these, read the information leaflets and discuss your concerns with your doctor. If they believe that the benefits of your medication outweigh the side effects, you’ll have to be extra careful when going outside. Sunscreen is a must, even on cloudy days.

Monitor your blood pressure regularly and stay in touch with your doctor

While a blood pressure monitor doesn’t sound like the most important thing to take on vacation, measuring your blood pressure regularly is a must. It’s the only way to know whether your medication is working as expected.

If you notice any unusual patterns in your blood pressure measurements, discuss them with your doctor. They may need to adjust your dosage depending on the season and the weather.

Key takeaways

High blood pressure needs to be managed year-round, but especially when it’s warm outside. In the summer months, blood pressure can spike due to dehydration or high humidity.

To manage your blood pressure in the summer, stick to a healthy lifestyle throughout the year, stay hydrated, and be aware that your medication might make you more prone to sunburn.

March 3, 2023