Snow shoveling: How to avoid a heart attack

WASHINGTON —  For those at risk for heart trouble, shoveling can be very dangerous.

“Shoveling snow can, in fact, precipitate a heart attack, and it does for thousands of Americans every year,” says Dr. Warren Levy, chief medical officer of Virginia Heart, one of the largest cardiology practices in the region.

He says shoveling snow involves a level of exertion that most of us just are not used to and don’t do on a daily basis.

“It is the same sort of trouble people get into [when they] have never exercised and decide to suddenly train for a marathon,” Levy explained.

People most likely to have problems while shoveling snow are those already diagnosed with heart disease, or who have significant risk factors, such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, cigarette smoking, a strong family history or a sedentary lifestyle.

Levy says those who do head out with a snow shovel need to start slowly and be careful not to over-exert.

It is important to dress appropriately for the weather, and start while the snow is light, before it becomes packed down and heavy.

Most of all, just use common sense. Anyone with a history of heart problems or serious risk factors — especially those who aren’t used to exercising — should either invest in a good snow blower or pay a neighborhood kid to do the shoveling.

 

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