Monday, August 3, 2015
cold water, hot weather, arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation
Last week it was hot in Montreal. With the humidity, it was over 40C (104F). At these temps my heart starts to feel floppy and irregular, and I am forced to stay indoors and do little.
Yet there I was, obediently staying indoors, not doing much, and drinking a lot, and my heart kept misbehaving. It seemed to me there had to be another factor involved--or at least, I wanted to find one. Anything but sit there at the mercy of my wonky engine (which is what I am, but that's my own existential crisis).
I finally realized that my heart went wildly irregular every time I had a large glass of the very cold water I was drinking to cool me down. Every time, too, my heart stayed irregular for a few hours. It's not a comfortable experience. I have mechanical valves and the beat is both audible and pronounced.
Cold water is hard on the body when it's already trying to stay stable in the heat. Sounds obvious, but it isn't. We live in an air-conditioned, pro-refrigeration society. We believe that when it's hot, we should be gulping down a nice, cold drink. I was recalling how, when I first visited my European relatives in the late 70s, I was never served cold drinks. My grandmother and aunts were shocked when I asked for ice. They said cold drinks were very bad for the heart. Screw that, I thought. Old-fashioned nonsense. I mean, here's a picture of my grandmother stoking the Kamin with wood. Does she look like a medical authority?
Well, in my case, it turns out she was right. I performed several admittedly unscientific experiments with cold drinks. I wasn't exerting myself in any way. My heart was regular. I drank a large glass of water direct from the fridge. My heart did its whoop-dee-do protest. I did it enough times to convince myself.
Since then, the weather has cooled down and I can tolerate cold drinks again. However, I now know that a cold drink during extremely hot weather is an extra stress which my heart doesn't need.
I looked online and found medical sites that confirm the effects of ice-cold drinks on sensitive hearts. However, I didn't find much information which is why I'm writing this. Even if you're in the care of an excellent cardiologist, it's possible you won't be asked if you were having an iced drink when you experienced your arrhythmia.
Note: if you have pronounced arrhythmia and are not already in the care of a doctor, you should see one. Nothing I'm writing here replaces the advice of a medical specialist. I'm writing an account of what I experienced. I'm familiar with certain aspects of my medical history. I've had heart surgery and am taking beta blockers and blood pressure meds.