Regulating your body temperature during summer heat

Staying cool and hydrated are a few of the ways you can keep your body comfortable on hot summer days.

Mid-to-late summer is the time when we start to feel pretty comfortable with the summer heat. But do you know what role your body plays in keeping you cool and well regulated?

When you are heating up, your body is already working to keep a tight balance between heat gain and heat loss. Individuals with chronic conditions have an increased risk of experiencing heat exhaustion. The reason for that can be linked in part to their medications and also to their body’s ability to regulate, or cool down once they become overheated.

The body’s temperature gauge is supported by:
  • The hypothalamus – a small portion of the brain that serves as the command center for numerous bodily functions, including the coordination of the autonomic nervous system works with other parts of the body’s temperature-regulating system.
  • The skin – sweat glands and blood vessels are the vents, condensers and heat ducts of your body’s heating and cooling system.
I’m sweating – is that good or bad?

Sweating is a natural and essential body process designed to help your body stay cool. As your body temperature rises, your body will automatically perspire to release salty liquid from your sweat glands to help cool you down.

The distinction arises when we begin to recognize that sweating, or simple perspiring, is not temporary or allowing us to cool down. When we sweat, we also lose water and electrolytes (i.e., “salts” such as sodium, chloride, potassium).

Minerals that help keep our temperature gauge regulated:
  • Electrolytes – You lose electrolytes when you sweat. Electrolytes are minerals in your blood and other body fluids that carry an electric charge. Electrolytes affect the amount of water in your body, the acidity of your blood (pH), your muscle function, and other important processes.
  • Magnesium – Magnesium helps with body temperature regulation. Magnesium is an essential mineral for staying healthy and is required for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body.
  • Potassium levels – Potassium is known as an electrolyte and is vital to cardiovascular health. It is important to know that drinking large amounts of soda and other sugary drinks can also deplete potassium. Potassium is a water soluble vitamin which gets excreted into the urine and stool; you must get potassium every single day in your food in order to meet your needs. Common signs of low potassium include leg cramps, and low energy levels.
I have a chronic disease how does this impact me?

If you have chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes then understanding the way your body reacts to heat is critical. Talking with your healthcare provider about the need for added vitamins that support the body’s minerals in regulating core temperatures along with developing a plan to cool down to reduce the negative effects of thermal stress are important.

The Center for Disease Control & Prevention offers these tips to stay cool:
  • Stay inside where there is air conditioning
  • Drink plenty of fluids, don’t wait until you feel thirsty
  • Don’t rely on fans for your primary means to escape extreme heat
  • Try to avoid using the stove or oven it will make your house temperature rise
  • Limit your time outside when it is the hottest time of the day
  • Pace yourself

For more information, programming and articles addressing chronic disease visit Michigan State University Extension’s website.

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