Shoveling snow can be risky for your health

Shoveling snow can be risky for your health

With snow flurries and storms hitting the Midwest and across the nation, those extra inches of snow mean once again pulling out the shovels and snow blowers from the back of the garage.

Dr. Peter Kerwin, a cardiologist with Advocate Heart Institute in Downers Grove, Ill., says shoveling snow is intense labor, especially when the snow is wet and heavy. He says while that can be great exercise for some, it could be potentially dangerous for older adults and those with heart problems.

“Exertion from shoveling strains the heart, which raises blood pressure and heart rate,” he says. “Anyone with coronary artery disease should avoid shoveling snow, and if you experience any chest pain, you should stop shoveling immediately.”

Dr. Kerwin also says if the pain persists for more than a few minutes, you should call 911. “This could be a warning sign that you are having a heart attack.”

He offers these six tips to help protect your heart while shoveling:

  • When the snow starts falling, begin shoveling before the snow packs down and becomes too heavy to move.
  • Dress warmly.
  • Use the correct size shovel. It’s easier and puts less strain on the heart.
  • Remain hydrated. It’s easy to forget that you can become overheated and dehydrated when it’s cold outside.
  • Avoid eating, drinking and smoking prior to shoveling. It’s OK to have some food in your stomach, but these activities make the heart work harder.
  • Take frequent breaks. Experts recommend five minutes of rest for every 15 minutes of shoveling.
  • Don’t be macho! Pick up small amounts of snow, which requires less energy.

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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.