Be careful when shoveling snow!

January 17, 2017

Exercise caution when shoveling snow

By Dr. Sean Gloth, cardiologist and member of CA’s Medical Advisory Board

It is widely known that shoveling snow and pushing a heavy snow blower are triggers for a heart attack. These activities significantly raise blood pressure and heart rate to levels measured during intense exercise. The cold weather itself can further increase blood pressure, blood clotting and constrict arteries, all of which can result in a heart attack. The combination of intense exercise and cold weather are responsible for increased incidence of heart attacks after a significant snowfall.

The Cleveland Clinic reports that shoveling snow results in more than 11,000 ER visits each year — mostly orthopedic injuries, but 7 percent have cardiac problems, including heart attacks. If you are at increased risk for heart attack, let someone else remove the snow.

Risk factors

People at risk for heart attack include those who are 50 and older and who have:

  1. known heart disease
  2. a sedentary lifestyle
  3. tobacco use
  4. high blood pressure
  5. elevated cholesterol
  6. diabetes

Stay safe

If you are healthy and fit and want to shovel snow, consider these guidelines:

  1. Ask your physician if you are healthy enough to shovel snow
  2. Avoid early morning snow shoveling, when risk is highest for blood clotting
  3. Avoid heavy meals and caffeine for an hour prior to shoveling
  4. Dress in layers and cover your head, neck, face, and hands
  5. Warm up
  6. Start slowly and take frequent breaks
  7. Stay hydrated – Common warning signs for heart attack include chest, back, neck or arm discomfort. In addition, shortness of breath, lightheadedness and excessive sweating are frequent complaints of heart attack victims. There are many other symptoms as well, but most importantly, if you think you are having a heart attack, call 911.


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