Shoveling snow can raise the risk of a heart attack for some. Here are precautions you can take

Posted at 12:17 PM, Jan 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-21 12:17:19-05

The weather has turned cold and snowy for many parts of the United States this week, and shoveling snow will be on many people's to-do lists. But the American Heart Association has a message about the risks.

The AHA says the combination of colder temperatures and physical exertion can increase the risk of heart attack for some.

Some tips from The AHA to make shoveling safer are:

  • Give yourself a break. Take frequent rest breaks during shoveling so you don’t over-stress your heart. Pay attention to how your body feels during those breaks.
  • Don’t eat a heavy meal prior or soon after shoveling. Eating a large meal can put an extra load on your heart.
  • Use a small shovel or consider a snow thrower. The act of lifting heavy snow can raise blood pressure acutely during the lift. It is safer to lift smaller amounts more times, than to lug a few huge shovelfuls of snow. When possible, simply push the snow.
  • Learn the heart attack warning signs and listen to your body, but remember this: Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, have it checked out (tell a doctor about your symptoms). Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives — maybe your own. Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1.
  • Don’t drink alcoholic beverages before or immediately after shoveling. Alcohol may increase a person’s sensation of warmth and may cause them to underestimate the extra strain their body is under in the cold.
  • Consult a doctor. If you have a medical condition, don’t exercise on a regular basis or are middle aged or older, meet with your doctor prior to the first anticipated snowfall.
  • Be aware of the dangers of hypothermia. Heart failure causes most deaths in hypothermia. To prevent hypothermia, dress in layers of warm clothing, which traps air between layers forming a protective insulation. Wear a hat because much of your body’s heat can be lost through your head.