When winter comes, an unsuspected risk arises when performing outside activities like shoveling.
According to statistics about 100 people die during or just after shoveling snow each year in the U.S. Many more are admitted to the hospital with chest pain or other heart problems.
However, Dr. Abe DeAnda, Professor and Chief of Cardiovascular Surgery at the University of Texas, Galveston Medical Center warns it is not just the physical exertion.
“It is the combination of colder temperatures with the cardiovascular activity, like lifting a heavy shovel full of wet snow that increases your blood pressure, causing your lungs and heart to work harder”, said DeAnda.
These factors can even put an otherwise healthy person at risk. It is important to know how cold weather can affect your heart, especially if you have cardiovascular disease. It has been shown by studies that there are more heart attacks in the December to January timeframe.
DeAnda said not to shovel, if you have had a heart attack, have known heart disease, are taking blood pressure medication, a smoker, or is someone who does not exercise regularly.
If you cannot avoid shoveling, DeAnda suggests that you pretend you are going to the gym or exercising and to warm up before you go outside.
“Get ready for the stress you are about to put on your body Snow shoveling can be more strenuous than exercising full throttle on a treadmill is a lot of exercise because you are using both your upper and lower body, causing you to breath heavy and sweat,” DeAnda said.
Both DeAnda and the American Heart Association recommend to take breaks every twenty to forty five minutes, and even more frequent breaks if you are older or not in good physical condition. Dress warm and cover your mouth so you are not losing heat or breathing in cold air that could affect the blood vessels in your lungs.
“Your body has to pump 2x harder not only to keep you warn but also to keep your muscles and body oxygenated while you are doing this heavy work, “said DeAnda.
Nicotine will increase your blood pressure and heart rate even more. He said if you do smoke, do not have a cigarette while you are shoveling. Listen to your body.
“Stop immediately if you feel dizzy, are getting chest pain, back pain, arm pain or are getting more out of breath than you expected. And if you continue to feel pain call your doctor. ”, said DeAnda.
If you do have mounds of snow where you live, pushing a heavy snow blower can also lead to a sudden increase in blood pressure and heart rate.
“So, if you can, pay that neighbor kid a couple of bucks to do the job,” said DeAnda.