Summer heat means those of us with PH must remain vigilant

Being mindful of diet and fluid intake are vital to managing our health

Jen Cueva avatar

by Jen Cueva |

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As I opened my email inbox, a headline instantly caught my eye: “Massive heat wave heading for USA next week.” This got me thinking about how heat affects those of us with pulmonary hypertension (PH). Here in sunny San Diego, many in our PH community are bracing for the extreme heat.

As summer officially kicks off this week, the forecast looks perilous for those of us with PH. Heat and sunlight can exacerbate PH symptoms, a common ordeal we all share. We must tune into our bodies and monitor how we react to prolonged heat and sunlight. Although I adore the sunshine and the beach is my sanctuary, I notice an increase in my symptoms on hotter days, including palpitations, headaches, and shortness of breath.

Relocating from the Gulf Coast of Texas to Southern California has been a blessing for me. It offers more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors without the oppressive heat and humidity that worsened my health in Texas. Fellow Bionews columnist Benjamin Hofmeister, who battles multiple sclerosis, says he also faces similar challenges with the heat and humidity in Alabama.

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As a busy summer rolls around, prioritizing my health is vital

For many PH patients, diuretics like Lasix (furosemide) are lifesavers, preventing swelling and reducing the risk of congestive heart failure (CHF). However, these medications make us more susceptible to heat, and sweating can lead to dehydration. Our kidneys are vital to regulating electrolytes, minerals, and water, but those with chronic kidney disease (CKD) face compromised functioning of these organs. Eating a balanced diet and monitoring fluid intake becomes a delicate dance to maintain our health.

Did you know that summer heat can diminish our appetite, too? When it’s scorching hot, I crave cooler foods and tend to eat less, which isn’t great since I already have the eating habits of a grazing toddler on most days. In response, my nephrologist set up a few sessions for me with a dietitian who specializes in kidney disease.

After two of these appointments, the dietitian humorously suggested I ask my daughter, Kayla, for advice. Kayla is a registered dietitian, so I asked her for some insight about why we eat less during the summer months. Following are excerpts of our conversation.

JC: Why are we less hungry when it’s hot out?

KC: When it’s hot outside, our bodies work hard to stay cool, and all this extra work can decrease our appetite. The body prioritizes regulating its temperature, often at the expense of hunger signals. Physiologically, digestion generates heat, so eating less helps keep internal temperatures down. Unsurprisingly, hot weather can also exhaust us, which diminishes our hunger.

What heart-healthy, lighter foods do you recommend during these times?

For heart-healthy eating in the heat, stick to light and nutrient-rich foods. Fresh salads with avocado and nuts, whole grains like quinoa and barley, and lean proteins like grilled chicken or fish are excellent choices. Seasonal fruits and veggies like berries, cucumbers, and tomatoes are refreshing and packed with vitamins and antioxidants. If you haven’t tried grilling fruits or vegetables lately, give it a go for a quick and easy summer side dish!

How can those who need to monitor fluid intake due to CHF or CKD increase foods with higher water content?

For those needing to monitor fluid intake due to conditions like CHF or CKD, balancing hydration with dietary restrictions is key. Opt for foods that boost hydration but are lower in volume. Fruits like grapes or berries offer hydration in smaller, more controlled quantities than watermelon or cucumber. Always coordinate with your healthcare provider to adjust fluid intake recommendations to your daily needs and medical guidance.


Kayla is excellent at keeping me in check, especially when it comes to my favorites like watermelon and cucumbers. These refreshing, high-water treats are delicious but best enjoyed in moderation. My nephrologist constantly reminds me of this, particularly on those scorching summer days when I feel extra thirsty.

It’s a tricky balance between managing fluid retention and avoiding dehydration. Remember, our bodies work nonstop to regulate our temperature and stabilize us. Let’s be mindful and give them the care they deserve during these hot summer months. Stay cool, stay hydrated, and relish all of summer’s fantastic joys!

Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


Sandra Hiatte avatar

Sandra Hiatte

Thx for the refresh. I have had heart surgery and required a pacemaker. I also have pah and stage 3 kidney disease. It's nice to refresh the mind on this info since I'm in my middle 70s and senior moments happen. Thx for taking the time to publish this info.

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Hey Sandra,

I'm thrilled to hear my column brought you some refreshment during this sizzling summer! Sounds like you've got your hands full, too, my PHriend! While I'm not quite in the senior club yet, those 'where did I put my keys?' moments are all too familiar. 😄

I'm also co-moderator of the PH News forums, and we'd absolutely love to see you there if you haven't joined already. Signing up is a breeze, and it's such a great space to connect with folks who get it and can share their own stories and support. Here's the link to join:

PH News forums

Your feedback on my column really made my day—it's so rewarding to know my words resonate. Thanks a million for taking the time to dive into my work and share your thoughts.

Looking forward to welcoming you to the forum and hearing more from you soon!

Carol Volckmann avatar

Carol Volckmann

Thank you Jen, great reminder. Yesterday I was out in the sun way too long and was totally depleted. Your post was a great reminder and Kayla's thoughts and knowledge on the subject were so helpful. Thank you sweet friend.

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Hi, sweet PHriend,

Oh boy, that heat really zaps our energy, doesn't it? Just a little nudge to remember to stay cool so we don't go through this again.

I'm glad you found my column useful. And yeah, Kayla's tips are helpful – I'll pass on your words. She's always keeping me on my toes, haha.

It means a lot that you dropped by to share your thoughts. Take care and dodge that heat, sweet Carol.

Aunt Lizzie avatar

Aunt Lizzie

Hope everyone over there in the USA is surviving the heat, wildfires etc etc. Here in Aussie on the east coast we are experiencing really cold weather. But, about the hot weather - I hate hot weather and love Spring and Autumn best, but if it is hot, I really enjoy a good curry meal. It makes me sweat so I think that's why I actually feel better eating that. I never sweat much, so anything spicy seems to help. I agree with the light dietary suggestions you've given, I really enjoy a good salad. That said - as a PH sufferer, I find the cold weather can make me feel really 'off'. Never can seem to get warm enough so have to pile on the layers of clothes. I may have Raynauds, not definitively diagnosed, but hands can go white. Doc says that's a sign I have a mild case, perhaps. Cheers to all you good phriends.

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Hi Lizzie,

Isn't it kinda wild how we're over here sweating through heatwaves while you're bundled up against the cold? Oh, you're into spicy stuff too? Yeah, those spicy dishes like curry really help you warm up from the inside out.

I'm all about spring and summer myself. Where I live, we usually hit the 80s (F), which is totally manageable for me. I can't stand the cold, though—it's like my lungs freeze up and I can never seem to get warm enough.

When it's hot out, I'm all for lighter meals. Think grilled proteins and fresh salads. And smoothies are my go-to when I'm not feeling super hungry.

We're all doing well over here, thanks for asking!

It really means a lot that you enjoyed reading my column. Your time and feedback are super appreciated. Take care, stay cozy, and catch you on the forums!


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