NewsYour Health MattersAsk Dr. Nandi

Ask Dr. Nandi: Staying healthy while shoveling or snowblowing

Winter Weather New Hampshire
Posted at 4:36 PM, Dec 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-21 17:47:17-05

(WXYZ) — As we brace ourselves for the impending snowstorm, it’s important to remember the blizzard-like conditions are also a health hazard. The snow and the cold can wreak havoc on your heart.

The major snowstorm we are expecting has all the ingredients for a major health alert.

The exertion from shoveling snow, along with the extremely cold temperatures, are a dangerous combination. It can lead to serious heart problems, including heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest. That’s because the strain of shoveling snow raises your heart rate and blood pressure more quickly and more dramatically than many other types of exercise.

The American Heart Association says shoveling snow can be more demanding on the heart than a treadmill stress test. Plus, cold temperatures cause blood vessels to constrict, which increases your blood pressure and makes your heart work even harder.

So, the people most at risk are those who do not exercise regularly. The sudden, strenuous workout can be taxing on the body.

Also, studies show men have a higher risk of heart attack after shoveling than women. Especially, men over age 55.

And, anyone with heart issues of any kind should not shovel snow at all. The same goes for pushing a heavy snowblower. That can be just as hazardous to your health.

Now, if you are relatively healthy and able to get out there to shovel, here are some tips:

  • Dress warmly
  • Push the snow, rather than lifting and throwing it
  • Take it easy and don’t overdo it. Shovel in small increments
  • And, take frequent breaks. Go inside and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

You need to be aware of the warning signs of heart trouble. I talked about them earlier this week when we discussed Holiday Heart, which is brought on by stress or overeating. Here are the symptoms again: Chest pain or pressure, Lightheadedness, Heart palpitations, Shortness of breath, and Pain in the jaw, neck, back or arm.

If you experience any of these, stop shoveling or snowblowing immediately.

And if the symptoms don’t subside shortly after you stop, call 9-1-1.

My best advice is to think before you try to shovel snow yourself. If you have even the tiniest bit of trepidation, do yourself and your loved ones a favor and hire a neighborhood kid or a professional to clear your walk.

As always, we want you to stay safe and healthy this winter.