Snow Shoveling—A Real Risk for Heart Attack

This simple burst of hard work can put some of us at risk

Each year, shoveling snow sends more than 11,000 people to the hospital. While most have orthopedic injuries, 7 percent have cardiac problems, and many of these are heart attacks.

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Doctors advise against shoveling if you are older, have heart disease or think you might. “Shoveling snow is hard work,” says Cleveland Clinic cardiovascular surgeon A. Marc Gillinov, MD, co-author of the hit book Heart 411. “People who have coronary artery disease should not perform strenuous shoveling of snow. It can trigger a heart attack.”

The cold temperatures also increase the risk for heart attack because the arteries constrict and this increases blood pressure.

If you have heart attack risk factors, don’t shovel.

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Many think heart attack symptoms are a sharp pain, but Dr. Gillinov advises that pressure in the chest is actually the most common symptom people have when experiencing a heart attack. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, discomfort in the left arm and chest pain.

Other heart attack risk factors are high cholesterol, peripheral arterial disease (PAD) and age.

The message is if you have any of the above risk factors, don’t shovel. Instead, hire a neighborhood teenager or a local snow plow to take care of your driveway. And if you experience any signs of heart attack, seek medical help immediately.

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