Heart Health: Guidelines for snow shoveling By Dr. Collins

OK, so winter decided to show up in an all or nothing way! Now we have all this snow to shovel. Should we or should we not shovel? Is it bad for my health? This is a valid question. We asked our Richard Collins, M.D. and he has the following tips on shoveling snow and some important do’s and don’ts.

There is a misconception that people die while shoveling snow. Actually very few people die with a snow shovel in their hand.

The problem with snow shoveling is that it combines isometric exercise, intense lifting with exposure to cold air and the elements. Blood pressure has a tendency to spike high, throwing the heart into an ischemic state (stress and lack of blood supply to the heart because of the heavy exertion). Often, men do not recognize symptoms when they’re shoveling snow and attribute any discomfort as musculoskeletal.

Often what happens is this scenario: An individual comes in from the cold after heavy exertion, the blood vessels start to dilate and blood pressure drops causing the bottom to fall out ….sweating, shortness of breath, chest pain and dysrhythmias (abnormal heart beats). A person becomes “white as a sheet” and it is payback time.

Snow Shoveling Heart Health: Do the following:

#1 If you have heart disease, be aware that shoveling snow is not recommended.

#2 Check with your health care provider regarding the amount of exercise that you should be doing.

#3 Remember cold air increases risks and intensifies symptoms.

#4 Don’t push yourself, stop when you’re feeling shortness of breath or any chest discomfort. If you do have chest pain after shoveling snow call 911.

Snow Shoveling Heart Health: Don’t do the following:

#1 If you have heart disease, you shovel snow with no one around.

#2 Your inappropriately dressed for the weather.

#3 You avoid a cool down period where your heart and blood pressure gradually decrease after intense exercise.

#4 You ignore symptoms and don’t contact 911 for help.