Snow Day? Don’t Dig Your Way into Heart Trouble

When the snow flies, the number of heart attacks tends to rise: Fact or fiction?

A 2017 study by the Canadian Medical Association Journal shows it may be fact. Researchers looked at 128,000 heart-related hospital admissions and found one third of the heart attacks and deaths happened a day after a snowfall. The association between snowfall and heart attacks was stronger among men than women, and heart attack risks after snowfalls were elevated regardless of age or cardiovascular risk factors

Many hearty shovelers may not realize that the physical demands of shoveling, paired with inhaling jolts of frigid air, can trigger a heart attack. The following tips may help prevent undue strain until the snowy season winds down.

First, know the signs of a heart attack and immediately call 911 if you suspect your heart is in danger. While shoveling, keep your cell phone in your pocket.

Cold temps can hit the heart hard. According to the National Safety Council, cold weather can negatively affect our bodies. As temps drop, cool air can increase heart rate and blood pressure; blood also tends to clot more easily and constricts arteries in the cold, which in turn decreases blood supply. Monitor your time outdoors and warm up inside frequently.

Shove vs. shovel. Shoveling requires heavy lifting, particularly with substantial accumulation or wet snow. For people who are not physically active, this repetitive motion can quickly prompt one’s heart rate to accelerate. Instead, push or shove the snow to the side and skip the lifting motion.

Be a snow-pro. Modify your movements with these helpful hints from Occupational Safety and Health Administration:

  • Stretch before heading outside;
  • Use a smaller shovel or scoop less snow;
  • Sweep the snow with a broom if snowfall is light;
  • Take frequent breaks and rest when you’re tired;
  • Ask for an assist – kids in your neighborhood may be looking to make money.

Lastly, if you have any concerns about your health and level of physical activity, talk with your doctor before reaching for the shovel.