Shoveling snow can be a necessary activity for those residing in the cold. But don’t let a picture-perfect coating of snow fool you: it can be deadly.
A common component of life in many parts of the continent, shoveling snow can lead to heart attacks or sudden cardiac arrest in people with heart conditions, as well as those unaware they have heart disease.
It is a very strenuous activity on its own, but the danger is enhanced by the effects of cold temperatures on the body. When blood pressure goes up and arteries constrict, it can create the perfect storm for a severe cardiac event.
Some data suggests that just two minutes of heavy snow shoveling can boost heart rate to the upper limit of what would typically be prescribed for aerobic exercise tests.
Those who are less fit, and thus at higher risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, heart disease, and other cardiovascular troubles can be in quite a bit of danger when they undertake the challenge of shoveling heavy snow.
So what can you do?
In the short term, ask a friend or family member to do it for you or hire a snow removal service. These are the best ways to eliminate the risk.
You could also shovel snow more frequently during snowfalls. Instead of waiting for it to get heavy, go out and do it intermittently so you can shovel away lighter loads instead of waiting for the dump to finish.
In the long term, find ways to improve heart health. Getting more activity every day (at a low-moderate pace, depending on conditioning), eating a healthy diet, moving more, and sleeping better may all help boost heart strength, so next year you’re better equipped to shovel snow.