Snow Shoveling Safety

December 09, 2010

Snow is right around the corner, people will be pulling the snow shovels out to clear sidewalks and driveways.  For most people, snow shoveling is not a problem, however it will raise the risk of heart attack for many of us. The extra physical exertion combined with colder temperatures increases the workload on the heart, so beware of the extra strain on your system which can lead to a heart attack. These tips from the American Heart Association will help protect you.
  • Take breaks. Frequent rest breaks during shoveling will help avoid overstressing your heart. Pay attention to how your feel.
  • Don't eat a heavy meal before or soon after shoveling. Eating a large meal can put an extra load on your heart.
  • Use a smaller shovel. It's the act of lifting heavy snow that can cause sharp rises in blood pressure. It is safer to lift smaller amounts more times. Push the snow when possible.
  • Pay attention to heart attack warning signs. Listen to your body, even if you're not sure it's a heart attack, tell a doctor about your symptoms. Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives -- maybe your own.
  • Don't drink alcoholic beverages before or immediately after shoveling. Alcohol increases a person's sensation feeling of warmth and lead them to underestimate the extra strain their body is under.
  • Consult a doctor. If you have a medical condition, don't exercise on a regular basis or are middle aged or older, meet with your doctor prior to the first anticipated snowfall.
  • Avoid hypothermia. Heart failure is the main cause of death from hypothermia. To prevent hypothermia, dress in layers of warm clothing, trapping air between layers forming a protective insulation. Wear a hat!
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
  • 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. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath - with or without chest discomfort.  Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
The most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort, but women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, if you experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain, seek medical help.  Take these precautions when shoveling snow this year to help ensure that you'll enjoy the bonuses of living in a Winter Wonderland!

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