Be Careful Not To Overdo It When Snow Shoveling

Health Topics

When the crisp winter air hits your face, you know it’s only a matter of time before snow is bound to start falling.

For many people, shoveling snow should not lead to an immediate health problem. But for people who have heart disease, people who are at risk of heart disease because of other health issues, and older adults, shoveling snow can cause serious health risks.

Shoveling the heavy snow combined with the cold temperatures increases how hard your heart has to work.

Cold weather can increase your blood pressure, according to Harvard Medical School. And shoveling what can add up to hundreds of pounds of snow – especially if you don’t exercise regularly – can be dangerous.

Oftentimes, the cold and overexertion can lead to heart attack signs, including squeezing pain in the chest, shortness of breath, pain starting in the left shoulder and down the arm, or a cold sweat. Jaw pain, lower back pain, extreme fatigue, nausea, and anxiety also can be symptoms.

To help keep yourself healthy and safe this winter, keep the following tips from HMS and the AHA in mind:

  • Call 911 if you think you are having heart attack symptoms.
  • Avoid trying to clear all of the snow; clear only what needs cleared.
  • Do not drink alcohol right before, right after, or while shoveling.
  • Do not eat a heavy meal just before or after shoveling.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Go inside right away if you feel lightheaded, short of breath, if your heart is racing, if your chest starts to hurt, or if you notice another physical change that makes you uncomfortable.
  • Push snow rather than lifting and throwing it, when possible.
  • Shovel many light loads of snow instead of trying to shovel just a few heavy loads.
  • Stay warm by dressing in layers to trap the heat in and wearing a hat.
  • Take breaks frequently.
  • Take time to warm up your muscles before shoveling, just like you would before exercising.
  • Use a snow blower, if possible, but still be careful not to overexert yourself.

Before you start shoveling this winter, make an appointment with your doctor to talk about whether or not shoveling snow could be dangerous to your health.

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