Every Winter, Lots of People ‘Drop Dead’ Shoveling Snow
It happens every winter, otherwise healthy men and women die from a sudden heart attack while shoveling Snow, while thousands of other Americans go to emergency rooms with cardiovascular problems.
The Big Q: Why are some people more likely to drop dead while shoveling heavy snow from their walkways or driveways than, say, jogging on a treadmill?
The Big A: The answer much to do with cold weather’s effects on the body as it does with overall cardiovascular health, experts say.
Heart attacks and deaths from heart disease tend to peak in Winter months, according to experts. Colder temperatures can affect human blood vessels in ways that increase the odds of cardiovascular problems.
Cold induces higher blood pressure and, when coupled with physical exertion like shoveling Snow, can create a dangerous scenario for people susceptible to a heart attack or stroke, notes a cardiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center.
“Physically, what happens when you get really cold is you have constriction of the blood vessels. It decreases the blood supply you’re getting to your vital organs.”
That is especially bad news for people with pre-existing heart problems, diabetes, or high blood pressure.
But another major factor is that many people overexert themselves while shoveling, despite not having exercised for months or even years. People underestimate the amount of work they are doing.
But even healthy individuals can fall victim.
So, who then is most at risk for a heart attack from show shoveling?
The experts say that people with the following conditions should be especially careful:
- People with a history of heart attack, cardiovascular problems, or peripheral arterial disease.
- Bypass surgery patients or heart stent implant recipients.
- People with at least 2 of the following: Smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol.
People with these conditions may have a partial blockage of the arteries in their heart. Vulnerable plaques create these blockages and when subject to stress they can rupture. This can lead to the formation of a blood clot that completely blocks the artery. When that happens a heart attack follows.
If any of these conditions apply to you, do not shovel snow, have someone to do it for you.
Unfortunately, the risk of shoveling Snoe is not just vascular, it can be orthopedic. Shoveling Snow can cause back, neck and joint trouble, especially in the cold. If you have a history of back or neck trouble do not shovel Snow.
A few tips that can prevent injury while shoveling:
- Dress warmly in layers.
- Warm up by marching in place.
- Start slowly.
- Use a lightweight shovel.
- Shovel in small scoops.
- Rest every 10 mins.
- Stay hydrated.
If you feel pain in the chest, neck or left arm, or shortness of breath regardless of what activity you are doing, stop immediately and go inside. If your symptoms do not go away in five minutes call 911.
Have a safe weekend if you are in a Snow covered area of the country.
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