Shoveling snow can cause a heart attack, the American Heart Association warns

Freezing temperatures and physical exertion, such as shoveling snow, increases the workload on the heart.
FROM STAFF REPORTS Modified: February 1, 2011 at 11:32 am •  Published: February 1, 2011


photo - Shoveling snow can lead to a heart attack. (BY JIM BECKEL, The Oklahoman/Archives Photo)
Shoveling snow can lead to a heart attack. (BY JIM BECKEL, The Oklahoman/Archives Photo)

Health experts warn about a greater risk of heart attack during snow shoveling. People who are outdoors in cold weather should avoid sudden exertion, such as lifting a heavy shovel full of snow.

Even walking through heavy, wet snow or snowdrifts can strain a person's heart.

If you must shovel snow, here are some tips:

Push snow instead of lifting it.

Take frequent breaks to avoid overstressing your heart.

Don't eat a heavy meal before or soon after shoveling to avoid putting an extra load on your heart.

Use a small shovel or a snow thrower. The act of lifting heavy snow can raise blood pressure acutely during the lift. It is safer to lift smaller amounts more times, than to lug a few huge shovelfuls of snow. When possible, simply push the snow.

Avoid alcoholic beverages before or immediately after shoveling. Alcohol draws heat away from the body's vital organs, possibly increasing a person's sensation of warmth and leading to underestimating the extra strain the body is under in the cold.

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