Snow shoveling can be surprisingly risky for some people

Most of us think of shoveling snow as an annoyance, not as a life threatening activity. But, studies show shoveling snow can lead to muscle aches and pains, frostbite and hypothermia, and even a heart attack.

A Serious Problem

According to the American Heart Association, while most people won’t have a problem shoveling snow, it can put a big strain on the heart of someone who lives a sedentary lifestyle.

A 2017 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that following a snowfall in Quebec, men were at a significantly increased risk for being hospitalized or dying from a heart attack.

The study quoted Willie E. Lawrence Jr., M.D., chief of cardiology at Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo., and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, “The process of shoveling snow puts heavy stress on the heart, increasing blood pressure and forcing the heart to work harder. And the cold temperatures you’re working in can cause blood vessels to constrict, which boosts blood pressure as well.”

According to Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates, more than 110,000 people went to doctors’ offices or clinics for snow-removal injuries, and as many as 28,000 went to the emergency room in 2016 in the United States.

Consumer Reports also notes that being out in the cold can put you at risk of frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite affects body parts such as fingers, toes and noses and can be painful and cause permanent damage. Hypothermia occurs when the body’s core temperature drops below 95° F. It is a medical emergency that can lead to death.

Stay Safe

The National Safety Council recommends the following tips for shoveling snow safely:

  • If you have a history of heart disease, never shovel without your doctor’s permission.
  • Never shovel right after eating or while smoking
  • Stretch before you begin and take it slow
  • Only shovel light snow that is fresh and powdery
  • Do not lift snow. Push it.
  • If you need to lift the snow, use a small shovel or only partially fill the shovel
  • Lift with your legs, not your back
  • Do not work to the point of exhaustion
  • Know the signs of a heart attack, and stop immediately and call 911 if you’re experiencing any of them; every minute counts.

In addition to possible health concerns related to shoveling snow, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, lists the following snow blower safety tips:

  • Before clearing a jam, turn off the blower first.
  • Always keep your hands and feet away from the moving parts.
  • Do not run a snow blower in an enclosed space because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Never add fuel when it is running.
  • Never leave it unattended when it is running.

Shoveling is not safe for everyone. No matter your age or physical condition, always take it slow and pay attention to what your body is saying to you. Stop shoveling immediately if you feel dizzy, nauseated, short of breath or have pain in your back, arms or shoulders.

If you are experiencing any symptoms of a heart attack call 911 immediately. For less severe aches and pains, visit alliancexpressuc.com for information about scheduling an appointment at our Dublin or Covington offices.

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