Heat Stroke and Cognitive Performance

Heat Stroke and Cognitive Performance

Too Hot to Think?

This time of year can make building in workouts throughout your day and social schedule easier. Maybe you are going to a friend’s pool party, or you will be on the lake waterskiing and wakeboarding all day. No matter the physical activity, summer fun in the sun can offer great workouts for both your body and brain, especially since aerobic exercises are excellent for the brain’s frontal lobe.

Texas can be nothing less than brutal in terms of weather and temperature. While outdoor exposure to the sun for Vitamin D and other physical and psychological elements is vital to your health, you can get too much of a good thing. Even in a simple social setting, lengthy exposure to the scorching summer sun and heat stresses critical areas of your body, which can impact your cognitive function. Not to spoil the party, but, while generally temporary, the chances of cognitive impairment should always be considered during outdoor, warm-weather activities.

What can happen to the brain during prolonged exposure to warm temperatures? 

At high temperatures, unwanted proteins and ions can build up in the brain, producing an inflammatory response that negatively impacts normal brain function. High temperatures can even cause brain cell death in some cases. During the summer’s seasonal temperature fluctuations, we all must take precautions against heat stress, which increases the risk of potential accidents. So, how can we continue to enjoy the summer season when it is so hot outside? Avoid direct sun exposure during mid-day hours, stay hydrated, and limit physical activity in the heat.

Heat Stroke

Neurological impairments can occur during a heat stroke when your internal body temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat stroke causes responses that can lead to harmful neurological effects causing long-term impairment. During heat-related trauma, there will be a disruption in the barrier between the blood and brain, allowing immune cells into the brain, leading to neuroinflammation. To effectively keep heat out, the body decreases the blood flow to the brain, which prevents it from obtaining the oxygen and nutrients it requires to function normally. These kinds of changes can lead to acute neurological effects, including confusion, loss of consciousness, and even seizures. If you do not cool down properly, permanent changes to attention, memory, and personality can occur.

Heat stroke symptoms include having a fast pulse, confusion, loss of consciousness, high body temperature, nausea and vomiting, flushed skin, rapid breathing, and headache. If you think someone is suffering from a heat stroke, for their brain’s health, it is vital to seek medical attention, get the person indoors, remove any excess clothing, and cool the person down in whatever way possible.

Cognitive Performance Delays

Cognitive impairment and motor performance delays can happen when your internal body temperature reaches 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit. Have you ever felt like you were so overheated, sweaty, and exhausted from the high temperature outside that your brain almost seems sluggish? Is it almost like your brain slowed down? This is an actual issue that, while seemingly explainable, can also be dangerous to your brain and overall health.

Although you can blame outdoor activities in the hot summer sun for higher risk of heat-related injuries, everyone can still safely have fun and participate in social activities, sports, and hobbies. Always consider your proximity to adequate hydration, air conditioning, medical assistance, and more. Your brain is depending on you!

Synapse: Human Performance Centers offers therapy and treatment for various neurological injuries to help rehabilitate patients and significantly improve their quality of life. If you think you or a loved one has suffered from a medical issue involving a form of cognitive impairment, Synapse professionals can develop a personalized one-of-a-kind treatment plan to help restore an optimal quality of life.

Go to synapsehpc.com to learn more or schedule a consultation.