Shoveling Snow Raises the Risk of a Heart Attack
The week’s massive winter storm, which brought much of the US mid-west and east to a standstill, also hiked heart attack risk due to snow shoveling.
There are ways to shovel snow safely.
“When winter comes, doctors know that the heart attack tally is about to climb, and a major reason for this is snow shoveling,” renowned cardiologist Dr. Chauncey Crandall says.
A recent study finds that about 11,500 injuries annually are related to snow shoveling.
But although most of these emergency room visits were non-cardiac related those involving the heart accounted for all of the deaths, according to the study, which was published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.
Snow shoveling is linked to heart attacks because of the combination of cold outdoor temperatures and unusual exertion.
“When you are cold, even in your extremities, like your toes or fingers, your blood vessels throughout you body constrict, due to the ‘cold pressor response,’” says Crandall, chief of the cardiac transplant program at the world-renowned Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
This constriction of blood vessels result in robbing your body of needed blood just when it needs it most, creating a deadly situation that can result in heart attack, according to Dr. Crandall, author of the Heart Health Report.
“Clearly, people who have heart problems should not shovel snow under any circumstances, but this also applies to apparently healthy older people, who also have been known to suffer such heart attacks,” he says.
According to Dr. Crandall, such heart attacks are more likely to strike the following people:
- People with a parent who were diagnosed with coronary heart disease before the age of 45 (male) or 55 (female)
But shoveling snow is not the only problem, says Dr. Crandall.
“Any activity you do in the cold can result in a heart attack, so this also goes for cutting and/or stacking woods, pushing your car out of the snow, putting on tire chains, and so on.”
“If you plan to shovel snow, get your doctor’s okay beforehand if you are middle-aged or older, have a medical condition or you do not exercise regularly,” says Crandall, adding, “If your doctor says it’s not okay, step away from the snow shovel.”
Below are Dr. Crandall’s tips for safer snow shoveling, as follows:
- Warm up ahead of time, by stretching or walking around. Usually people plunge into snow shoveling because they want to get it over with, and don’t allow for the warm up they would ordinarily do before exercising.
- Use a small shovel or snow thrower. But remember, even a snow thrower can cause danger because you are exerting yourself when you walk or run behind it.
- Choose a shovel that’s curved because that’s easier on the back, and spray it with cooking oil so the snow slides off more easily.
- Wear a facemask and goggles. If none of your skin is bare, your body is less likely to respond with the “cold pressor response.”
- Take frequent breaks. Do some shoveling, go indoors and warm up, and then tackle it again.
- Do not eat a big meal before or soon after shoveling. Digestion adds to your heart’s workload.
- Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, but make sure it’s not an alcoholic beverage. Alcohol can increase your sense of warmth, and you may misjudge the cold temperatures.
- Call 911 immediately if you become short of breath, perceive chest pain, feel faint, or experience any other symptoms that could be warning signs of a heart attack.
My tip, don’t do it, hire the neighborhood kids to do it, pay them handsomely so they come back, it is Winter!
Have a terrific weekend.