Shoveling? Here are recommendations from the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association offers the following recommendations for those who wish to venture out to shovel:


The American Heart Association says that for most people, shoveling snow may not lead to any health problems. However, the association warns that the risk of a heart attack during snow shoveling may increase for some, stating that the combination of colder temperatures and physical exertion increases the workload on the heart. People who are outdoors in cold weather should avoid sudden exertion, like lifting a heavy shovel full of snow. Even walking through heavy, wet snow or snow drifts can strain a person’s heart.

To help make snow removal safer, the American Heart Association has
compiled a list of practical tips.

• Give yourself a break. Take frequent rest breaks during
shoveling so you don’t overstress your heart. Pay attention to how your
body feels during those breaks.

• Don’t eat a heavy meal prior or soon after shoveling. Eating a
large meal can put an extra load on your heart.

• Use a small shovel or consider 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.

• Learn the heart attack warning signs and listen to your body,
but remember this: Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, have it
checked out (tell a doctor about your symptoms). Minutes matter! Fast
action can save lives — maybe your own. Don’t wait more than five
minutes to call 9-1-1

• Don’t drink alcoholic beverages before or immediately after
shoveling. Alcohol may increase a person’s sensation of warmth and may
cause them to underestimate the extra strain their body is under in the

• Consult a doctor. If you have a medical condition, don’t
exercise on a regular basis or are middle aged or older, meet with your
doctor prior to the first anticipated snowfall.

• Be aware of the dangers of hypothermia. Heart failure causes
most deaths in hypothermia. To prevent hypothermia, dress in layers of
warm clothing, which traps air between layers forming a protective
insulation. Wear a hat because much of your body’s heat can be lost
through your head.

Heart Attack Warning Signs
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense — the “movie heart attack,”
where no one doubts what’s happening. But most heart attacks start
slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren’t sure
what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that
can mean a heart attack is happening:

• Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the
center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes
away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing,
fullness or pain.

• Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can
include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or

• Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.

• Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea
or lightheadedness.

As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or
discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience
some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath,
nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

Calling 9-1-1 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving
treatment. Emergency medical services (EMS) staff can begin treatment
when they arrive — up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the
hospital by car. EMS staff is also trained to revive someone whose heart
has stopped. Patients with chest pain who arrive by ambulance usually
receive faster treatment at the hospital, too. It is best to call EMS
for rapid transport to the emergency room. If you can’t access EMS, have
someone drive you to the hospital right away. If you’re the one having
symptoms, don’t drive yourself, unless you have absolutely no other option.

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