Winter brings frigid temps and heavy snowfall. While heavy snow can paint a winter wonderland the picture isn’t charming when you have to clear sidewalks and driveways with a shovel. In fact, for people over 45 it can be downright deadly.
Cold temperatures and the strenuous activity of shoveling snow can be a dangerous combination, heightening the risk of heart attacks for some individuals.
What increases the threat?
In cold conditions, your blood vessels constrict, and your blood pressure rises. When you are shoveling snow, this activity puts extra strain on your heart. If you exert yourself too much and too quickly this is when a heart attack can occur.
Heart Attack Symptoms
Here are some potential heart attack symptoms you could experience after shoveling snow:
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain
- Pain down your arm or up through your neck
- Cold sweat
- Unexplained fatigue, nausea, or anxiety
Who is at risk?
Any person that is over the age of 45 that does not regularly exercise, is obese, or is not physically fit is at risk. Individuals should strongly consider avoiding shoveling if they are over 55, have a heart condition, or have more than one medical condition (e.g. cardiac or vascular disease, smoking addiction, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc.).
If shoveling is dangerous for me, what do I do?
Find and hire a snow removal service or someone in your community to clear away your snow. The damage your heart would take from a heart attack would be far worse than paying a removal fee. Avoid this risk and protect your health!
How can I shovel safely?
- Stay hydrated
- Wear warm but not tight clothing
- Split up large areas (like your driveway) and shovel them in small sections
- Take breaks at a warm place and watch for developing symptoms
- Keep track of how you feel before and after shoveling, and if you have symptoms call 911 immediately
COPC wants you and your loved ones to stay safe and healthy. Check out our Health Library for more stories on health topics like this!
“Heart Attack Risks While Shoveling Show.” Cleveland Clinic, 1 Dec. 2021, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/snow-shoveling-a-real-risk-for-heart-attack/.
Staff, Harvard Health Publishing. “Protect Your Heart When Shoveling Snow.” Harvard Health, 28 Feb. 2020, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/protect-your-heart-when-shoveling-snow-201101151153.
Blake, Ally. “How Shoveling Snow Can Increase the Risk of Heart Attacks.” Https://Www.wkyt.com, https://www.wkyt.com/2022/01/29/how-shoveling-snow-can-increase-risks-heart-attacks/.