Shoveling Snow Can Raise Heart Attack and Other Health Risks. Here’s What You Should Know to Stay Safe

January 4, 2018, 9:49 PM UTC
Massive Winter Storm Brings Snow And Heavy Winds Across Large Swath Of Eastern Seaboard
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 04: Workers shovel the sidewalks on the streets of Boston as the snow begins to fall from a massive winter storm on January 4, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. Schools and businesses throughout the Boston area are closed as the city is expecting over a foot of snow and blizzard like conditions throughout the day. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Spencer Platt—Getty Images

Winter storms have descended upon the eastern U.S. and have been dumping snow onto New England, New York City, and other parts of the Northeast. And significant snowfall means that the powder eventually has to be cleaned up. But shoveling snow can actually increase the risk of heart attack and other injuries, especially among certain Americans—so it’s important to stay safe while you’re out there snow shoveling.

Heart attacks and back injuries are among the physical injuries that arise during these times. After all, it takes a decent amount of physical effort to shovel snow, especially when a winter storm lasts for hours and requires multiple whacks at snow shoveling. In fact, about 100 Americans die from heart attacks related to shoveling snow each winter, according to one analysis by the U.S. Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

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There are ways to stay safe. For one, you should always be aware of what heart attack symptoms look like, especially if you’re older or have a history of heart disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) says that it’s important to: take breaks; avoid big meals and alcohol before or after shoveling snow; use a small shovel; and, of course, keep warm while you clean out the winter powder.

If you’re not generally physically active and/or at risk of injuring your back (or something else)—it’s probably best to get some help, either from professional snow removal services or friends and family. It’s also important to drink water to stay hydrated, and to head indoors at the first signs of discomfort that may indicate a heart attack, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, cold sweats, and shooting pains down the arms.

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