Safe In 60: Don’t Put Your Heart At Risk When Shoveling Snow

Dec 16, 2019, 7:17 AM | Updated: 7:19 am

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah – For most of us, shoveling snow is our least favorite winter chore. It can also be deadly.

Every year, about 100 people die from a heart attack while shoveling snow. Thousands more end up in the emergency room with slip and fall injuries.

Why does this happen?

Cold weather can increase blood pressure and heart rate even in healthy people. If you add extreme exertion like shoveling snow, it can put strain on the heart.

Who is at risk?

People who are over the age of 55 are four times more likely to experience cardiac related symptoms while shoveling snow.

People who are relatively inactive or have a medical condition are also at risk.

If you don’t exercise regularly, check with your doctor before you shovel snow.

How to shovel safely

Before you head outside with a shovel, consider this advice from the National Safety Council to help prevent injuries or cardiac issues:

  • Warm-up with light exercises before you start. That will decrease the risk of strains and soft tissue damage.
  • Dress warmly, including a hat to maintain body heat, and wear slip resistant shoes with good traction.
  • Push the snow, rather than lift it.
  • If you must lift it, it’s safer to lift smaller amounts of snow. Heavy lifting can raise blood pressure. Lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Pace yourself. This is not a race – take frequent breaks, and never work to exhaustion.
  • Don’t eat a heavy meal before or soon after shoveling. It can put an extra load on the heart. You should also avoid drinking alcohol before or immediately after shoveling.

Most importantly, learn the signs of a heart attack and listen to your body. If you are experiencing any signs, stop immediately and call 911. Symptoms can vary, but according to the American Heart Association, you should watch for:

  • Chest discomfort: Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. That can include one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

You wouldn’t start a heavy weightlifting program in freezing temperatures without any preparation, would you? If you’re at high risk or live a fairly inactive lifestyle, now is not the time to start by shoveling snow.

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Safe In 60: Don’t Put Your Heart At Risk When Shoveling Snow