Snow Shoveling May Increase Heart Attack Risk for Some: Here’s Why

by Samantha Whidden
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As the northeast, midwest, and southeast states continue to experience winter storms that are producing large amounts of snow, medical experts are revealing how shoveling may actually increase heart attack risks for some people.

According to U.S. News, Chief of Cardiovascular Services at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital in Detroit, Dr. Sam Kazziha, states that the combination of shoveling snow and cold weather may actually cause arteries to spasm and constrict. This may lead to some health complications, including heart attacks. 

“During the snow season, we do get a lot of heart attack victims who were exposed to the cold weather while doing strenuous activities like shovel snow,” Dr. Kazziha also explains. He then reveals that most heart attack patients are middle-aged people who ignore their pre-existing risks. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Luke Laffin, a Cardiologist with the Cleveland Clinic, further notes that snow shoveling is very similar to being at “peak exercise” on a stress test. “So it puts a lot of strain on your heart. And for someone who isn’t used to actually exercising and being physically fit, it can predispose them to heart attacks.”

Dr. Laffin goes on to say that any significant onset of chest pain; trouble breathing; or pain that radiates down the arm or into the neck are considered “hallmark” signs of a potential heart attack. The Cleveland Clinic also shares, “In addition, if you notice you’re getting tired more easily, feeling like a cold sweat is coming on or feeling light-headed, these could also be signs of a heart attack.”

Here is How to Shovel Snow Safely 

While continuing to address the risk of hearts while shoveling snow, Dr. Laffin explains how people are able to shovel safely without any health risks. He states that it is important for everyone to weigh the risks and benefits of shoveling.

Dr. Laffin’s first piece of advice is for everyone to not push themselves too hard in order to shovel the snow. “Take your time shoveling. If you feel your body [is] beginning to get tired, go inside. Rest for a little bit.”

The Cleveland Clinic cardiologist goes on to advise that everyone should try to make shoveling snow management by not tackling the entire driveway all at once. It is better to divide up the work and take frequent breaks. 

It is also important that everyone treats shoveling like they would for any other type of sport or exercise. This means staying warm and hydrating as much as possible. Everyone should also pay careful attention to how they are feeling both before and after shoveling. 

In regards to when it is best to skip shoveling snow altogether, Dr. Laffin adds that people over the age of 55 or people with more than one medical condition should have someone else shovel instead. 

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