KANSAS CITY (December 20, 2013) – Cardiovascular events like sudden cardiac arrest may increase during cold winter months, research shows.
The American Heart Association says that for most people, shoveling snow may not lead to any health problems. However, the association warns that the risk of a heart attack during snow shoveling may increase for some, stating that the combination of colder temperatures and physical exertion increases the workload on the heart.
Here are some tips from the American Heart Association to make snow shoveling safer:
- Give yourself a break. Take frequent rest breaks during shoveling so you don’t overstress 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 smaller shovel or consider a snow thrower. It is safer to lift smaller amounts more times than to lug a few huge shovelfuls. When possible, simply push the snow.
- Learn the heart attack warning signs and listen to your body, but remember this: event if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, have it checked out. Minutes matter!
- 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.
It is also important to understand the heart attack warning signs prior to heavy lifting. Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren’t sure what’s happening and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
- Chest discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, such as pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.