Winter weather is sweeping across the country and if you’re on driveway duty, this is your reminder that shoveling snow can put a heavy strain on your heart.
Every year in the U.S. hundreds of people die during or just after removing snow from sidewalks and driveways. According to the American Heart Association, many people face an increased risk of a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest from shoveling. Doctors say these risks exist for both people with and without a known history of heart disease.
Experts estimate shoveling heavy snow may be as or even more demanding on the heart than taking a typical treadmill stress test. After only two-minutes of shoveling, heart rates can exceed 85% of maximal heart rate, and the impact is hardest for those in the worst physical shape.
There are several factors that can play a role, including:
- Increased heart rate
- Cold temperatures, which can cause blood pressure to spike
- Frigid conditions, which can constrict the coronary artery
The American Heart Association offers these shoveling tips:
- Push the snow instead of lifting and throwing it
- Take plenty of breaks
- If you experience any signs of heart trouble (like chest pain or pressure, lightheadedness or heart palpitations or irregular heart rhythms) stop shoveling or snow blowing immediately. The American Heart Association recommends calling 9-1-1 if symptoms don’t subside shortly after you stop shoveling or snow blowing.
Experts caution that even using a snow blower may put you at risk because it can still increase your heart rate and blood pressure.
Shoveling can be especially dangerous for those who have other cardiovascular risks like obesity, smoking, diabetes or high cholesterol.