Shoveling Snow? Don't Have a Heart Attack
Advocate Christ Medical Center offers safety tips for snow removal.
No matter what you’re calling the blizzard of 2011—Snowmageddon, Snowzilla or Category 3 Kill Storm—most of us are probably going to be shoveling some snow within the next 24 hours.
The snow that’s falling on the Chicago region is the heavy, wet kind often described as “heart attack snow.” That’s because it takes more energy and exertion to get rid of than the light, fluffy stuff.
“What people are really referring to are those have known or unknown heart disease when they stress their bodies shoveling snow,” Dr. Brian Sayger said, vice chairman of emergency room services for Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
“Basically, they’re doing a stress test on their heart,” Dr. Sayger said. “If someone has narrow arteries it can involve a lack of oxygen to the heart [possibly resulting] in a heart attack.”
Dr. Sayger didn’t have exact statistics on heart attack snow-related incidents, but did say that the number of people reporting to the emergency room complaining of chest pains increases during snow incidents.
Before you head out to clear off your driveway or dig out your car, Dr. Sayger offers these helpful snow removal safety tips.
- Be realistic. Don’t try to set a record shoveling your walks and driveway. Work at a slower pace and take frequent breaks so you don’t stress your heart or injure your back, especially if you’re someone who is not normally physically active. Slow and steady wins the race.
- Dress for the weather. Sure. You’re probably going to sweat lifting that shovel or cranking up the snow blower, but you still need to dress in layers for the elements, including hats, gloves and jackets. When you perspire, your body is losing heat as well as its ability to detect cold. So put a jacket on over that sweatshirt and T-shirt.
- Hydrate. Even though it’s winter and it’s cold, your body still needs fluids to complete the snowy task ahead. Take frequent breaks and drink lots of water (save the pop and beer for when you’re finished) especially if you’re working up a sweat.
- Work within your comfort zone. If you can’t speak in full sentences without gasping for breath, you’re probably over exerting yourself and run the risk of a heart attack or injury—especially if you have heart disease, diabetes or someone who doesn’t get a lot of exercise. Take frequent breaks and watch how much snow your piling on that shovel. You’re shoveling the driveway, not competing in a Mr. World weightlifting contest.
- Avoid overexposure. There’s a reason why your mom told you to wear a hat before going out to play in the snow. Go back inside the house to re-warm and re-hydrate.