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Are you fit enough to tackle Midwest snow?

Are you fit enough to tackle Midwest snow?

It was Super Bowl weekend – Patriots vs. the Seahawks, and snow was falling. A lot of snow. Many smart people shoveled or used their snow blowers several times throughout the day. Sadly, I did not fall into that category. I thought, “I’ll wait until it’s almost done snowing and then go out and do this just once.” Not a good idea!

So, an hour and a half before kick-off, I ventured outside to face about 15 inches of wet snow, which felt like cement. Two and a half hours later, I staggered into the house, covered in snow and looking like a heart attack – which at one point in my intense “aerobic workout” I thought I might be having.

Thankfully, I survived my intense snow removal exercise on Super Bowl Sunday and only missed the first half of the game. But, some individuals are not so fortunate. Every winter, there are more than a hundred documented fatal heart attacks caused by snow shoveling or using a snow blower in the United States.

Dr. Paul Silverman, chief of cardiology at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., stated “probably, there are many more patients who develop heart attacks [from snow clearing] than those estimates suggest. As an interventional cardiologist, I am always worried about being on call right after a heavy snowfall.”

In fact, snow shoveling or pushing a snow blower through heavy, wet snow is more strenuous than running at a full sprint on a treadmill. Why? It obviously increases your heart rate suddenly and for a prolonged period of time. It can also cause a sudden increase in your blood pressure, and the cold air may constrict your blood vessels, thus decreasing oxygen to the heart. You add all of that together and you are actually creating a scenario that could result in a potentially fatal heart attack.

So, if you fall into one of the categories below, experts say you should probably avoid snow shoveling or snowplowing if you are a person:

All of this is within the context of good, old-fashioned common sense. Taking 10 minutes or so to remove an inch or two of light snow to create a short path with a shovel or snowblower is worlds apart from my experience. Deep and wet snow is simply very taxing and not a good idea for those of us on the list above.

After my little adventure, and at my wife’s encouragement, I saw my cardiologist, who checked me out to ensure my lack of common sense hadn’t caused me any serious harm. Thankfully, all looks good. However, my wife has informed me that my snow shoveling and snowblowing days are over – somehow she wasn’t buying my story that I’m only 52.

Next time it snows – think about it before you attack your driveway or sidewalk!

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  1. 3 years ago in the Chicago winter I snowblowed my driveway and 1/2 way through thought I was dying. I was so out of breath and then in March 2012 I went in for minor throat surgery.same as Joan rivers and anoseologist asked if I had any shortness of breath. Told him I did in winter so he cancelled the surgery until I saw my cardiologist . I Did the stress test and and they said I had clogged vessels.went in for 4 way heart surgery in August 2012 and wound up with 6 way and followed 2 days later by 2 strokes. No left vision or left side. 2-1/2 years later slight improvement. But the doctor saidif I had the throat surgery I might not wake up. Had that done in June 2012.

  2. Hi Ken,
    You need to plan better by testing the snowblower from time to time. I find if you buy a new spark plug for it each year you may not need the snowblower or if it does snow like it has the last 2 years it starts up so much easier. If you snow blow or shovel more often its easier on you and the equipment since there is less to do. The temperature really dropped I find that the most dangerous par of being outside. I hope spring arrives soon for all our sakes. Nice article on winter snow removal and February being heart awareness month also. I see that construction at the ACMC is progressing very nicely.
    Thank you
    Don Biederman

  3. Lynn Hutley

    Thanks for sharing, Ken. Last winter while visiting family my husband looked out the window and saw the neighbor collapse while pushing his snow blower. It’s definitely a serious matter and likely the reason heart attacks occur most often in February.

  4. This is why I live in a condo! Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. Yes, thanks for reminder about SNOWBLOWING as well as shoveling! People often think that it is only the shovel that can reek havoc.

  6. Got my first snowblower this year and couldn’t be happier. So much easier than shoveling! But it’s definitely wise to go out multiple times for big snows.

About the Author

health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.