It’s winter and time for shoveling snow. Every year, thousands of people put stress on their hearts trying to move the white stuff around.
Why is shoveling snow such a common trigger for a heart attack?
The American Heart Association states that the combination of colder temperatures and sudden physical exertion increases the workload and strain on the heart. They say that, surprisingly, even walking through heavy, wet snow or trekking through snowdrifts can cause stress on the heart.
If you think that you may be susceptible to triggering a heart attack while shoveling or you know someone who could be, read on.
The Heart Association provides the following tips for making snow shoveling safer, and decreasing the chance of it triggering an emergency:
1) Give Yourself a Break
Don’t try to shovel the whole driveway or walk in one go. Take breaks-it’s not a competition. And listen to your body when you are on these breaks. Be on the lookout for warning signs. Most heart attacks start slowly and progress with mild pain or discomfort before developing into the full deal.
2) Don’t Eat Heavy Before Heading Out
Eating a large amount of food can put an extra strain on the heart. Snack if you need some fuel, but save that full meal as a reward for when you are done.
3) Use a Small Shovel
Blood pressure can go up acutely when lifting a heavy shovel full of snow. Lifting small amounts repeatedly is safer and using a small shovel helps keep things small as you can’t accidentally overload it.
4) Push the Snow
Avoid the strain of lifting altogether by pushing the snow to the curb or grass. Save your energy!
5) Consider Getting a Snow Blower/Thrower
If you think that shoveling is imposing too much strain on your body and there is no one else to help you clear the walk, consider borrowing your neighbor’s snow machine, or getting your own. Or, if you can, hire some else to do the work.
6) Don’t Drink Alcohol Before or After Shoveling
It might make you feel warm, but drinking alcohol before, during or after shoveling can cause you to underestimate the workload you are putting on your body. And how cold it actually is.
Drinking water to stay hydrated while shoveling is recommended-it can be a sweaty workout!
7) Consult Your Doctor Before Shoveling
If you have a medical condition or if you aren’t in super shape or you don’t exercise on a regular basis, see your doctor before the snowy season gets in full swing. Talk with them about the strain of shoveling, and whether it’s safe for you or not. This way you can be ready for that first big snowfall before it hits.
If you think shoveling might not be for you, save your energy for a chat by the fireside.
And above all, learn the warning signs of a heart attack, inform those around you and stay safe. Minutes matter. As the Heart Association says, “Fast action can save lives-maybe your own. Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1”.