Your Brain on Heat

Have you ever felt that your brain is a little less sharp when the temperatures heat up? Can’t think as quickly or clearly as you normally do? Forgetting routine facts or tasks? Aggressively head-bobbing between 2pm and 3pm? Studies are emerging that connects high temperature and cognition—and the findings are all similar: the brain and body does not like feeling hot hot hot.

As this heat wave sits on top of the US this week, many may start to worry about the effect this heat has on their bodies and mind. The fact is: heat can be dangerous. Without the proper precautions and actions, heat can kill. This year alone the extreme weather has plagued more than half the nation, and sent hundreds to the hospital with heat-related conditions.

The Mayo Clinic, the University of California San Francisco and the CDC have all published studies tying heat to decreased brain and body function in the past few years. Cases of heat-stroke, severe dehydration and seizures can vitally damage brain function and are common heat-related illnesses. When it’s hot, your body spends more time trying to keep your brain and vital organs from overheating. Increased body temperature has long been linked to decreased brain function.  When it overheats severely, your body loses its ability to control internal temperatures, causing heat stroke or other less severe heat-related illnesses.

Common symptoms of heat-related illness are confusion, slurred speech, headache, dizziness and excessive sweating. If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of these symptoms, drink water, remove yourself from the heat, and rest. If symptoms worsen or do not improve, seek immediate medical attention.

Those, whom are overweight, have heart conditions or high blood pressure are particularly vulnerable to heat-related illness. These populations and the elderly need to observe extreme caution and follow necessary precautions to stay cool.

Drinking water, staying out of the heat and spending time in an air conditioned environments are the best ways to avoid injury. However, if you are subjected to the blazing heat, make sure you wear loose clothing made with breathable fabrics, stay hydrated and take frequent breaks in cool or shady areas.

Though many associate sun and summer days with outdoor activities and leisure, the heat can also kill. In extreme heat waves, it’s always best to ere on the side of caution. For athletes and fitness enthusiasts, this means reduced outdoor activities. If you’re a runner or athlete that insists on running despite the weather, it may be time to rethink your exercise schedule.  Strenuous activities can actually weaken muscles and do more harm than good to your body. A runner in Death Valley recently tried his luck in upwards of 120 degree heat, only to have the soles of his shoes melt from the heat of the pavement.

A word of advice to those avid runners out there, save the LSDs or sprint-rotations to a day when the road won’t melt the rubber off of your shoes. It just may save your wallet from buying a new pair of sneakers, or your life.

From all of us here at Angels, to all those others who are facing extreme heat this summer; stay cool, hydrated and safe this summer!


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