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Why Can Shoveling Snow Cause A Heart Attack?

January 16, 2020

Snow shoveling can cause heart attacks because the combination of colder temperatures with high physical exertion puts extra strain on the heart. No matter who you are, sudden exertion in cold weather could pose a risk to your health. 

This test can tell you your 10-year risk for a heart attack.

Harvard Medical School shares that each year, about 100 people (mostly men) die during or shortly after shoveling the snow and that hundreds more seek emergency medical care due to chest pains or other heart-related issues.

If you live in a place that receives heavy snowfall each winter, shoveling snow is almost second-nature. When the snow goes unshoveled, walkways to our home, driveways, and sidewalks become more dangerous and a burden to walk in. However, the simple act of shoveling snow can be dangerous in itself.

5 Reasons Why Snow Shoveling Causes Heart Attacks

1. The consistent motion of lifting and removing heavy snow raises heart rate and blood pressure.
2. Cold temperatures cause our blood vessels to constrict, therefore blood flow to the heart is restricted.
3. The heavy use of arm muscles is oftentimes the most strenuous exercise, increasing heart rate significantly.
4. If you do not exercise regularly, the combination of colder temperatures and heightened physical exertion can cause sudden strain that your body isn’t prepared for.
5. It is more difficult to catch your breath in the cold weather and with an increased heart rate, this can be deadly.

Who’s Most At Risk?

If you fall into any of the following categories or experience the following symptoms, please consult with your doctor before even thinking about shoveling snow:

How To Decrease Your Risk

If it is absolutely necessary for you to shovel snow this winter, the American Heart Association wants you to keep in mind these ways to make the process safer:

  • Give yourself a break when you’re feeling tired. Go inside for some warmth and to catch your breath. Don’t stay out in the cold to rest.
  • Use a shovel that is easy to manage. Do not grab the biggest and heaviest shovel just because you think it will get the job done faster.
  • Do not drink alcohol or eat a heavy meal before shoveling snow. Alcohol may trick your body into thinking feel warmer than you actually are, and heavy meals will put an extra load on your heart.
  • Be aware of the warning signs of heart attacks. Have a phone handy and if you are able, call 911 upon the first sign that something is wrong. It is also a good idea not to shovel snow while you are home alone. Let a loved one know you are heading out in the cold to do so.

Check out our list of even safer ways to shovel snow.

Do not take snow shoveling lightly. It is important to be aware of just how dangerous this seemingly-simple household chore can be. If the temperatures drop below freezing and your body is not prepared for such intense physical activity, avoid snow shoveling at all costs.

Understanding the dangers of snow shoveling can save your life as well as the lives of others. If you or a nearby neighbor are visibly struggling to shovel snow, or even move around in the colder temperatures, call for emergency help immediately.

The best way to stay on top of your heart health is to read up on everything you should know about heart disease and then maintain a lifestyle that will keep your heart in its best shape. Download our free guide, “The Heart Disease Facts That Could Change Your Life” to learn more.

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