Winter Weather Tips for Cardiac Patients

Updated:Nov 10,2013

Winter Weather Tips for Heart Patients GraphicFor most people, shoveling snow may not lead to any health problems. However, the risk of a heart attack during snow shoveling may increase for some, especially those in poor physical condition or those with existing heart disease or a personal history of stroke.

The combination of colder temperatures and physical activity increases the workload on the heart. People outdoors in cold weather should avoid sudden exertion, like lifting a heavy shovel full of snow. Even walking through heavy, wet snow or snow drifts can strain a person’s heart.

To help make snow removal safer, here is a list of practical tips.
  • 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 small shovel or consider a snow thrower. The act of lifting heavy snow can raise blood pressure acutely during the lift. It is safer to lift smaller amounts more times, than to lug a few huge shovelfuls of snow. When possible, simply push the snow.
  • Learn the heart attack warning signs and listen to your body, but remember this: Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, have it checked out (tell a doctor about your symptoms). Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives — maybe your own. Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1
  • 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.
  • Consult a doctor. If you have a medical condition, don’t exercise on a regular basis or are middle aged or older, meet with your doctor prior to exercising in cold weather.
  • Be aware of the dangers of hypothermia. Heart failure causes most deaths in hypothermia. To prevent hypothermia, dress in layers of warm clothing, which traps air between layers forming a protective insulation. Wear a hat because much of your body’s heat can be lost through your head. 
  • Learn CPR. Effective bystander CPR, provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest, can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival. Hands-only CPR makes it easier than ever to save a life. If an adult suddenly collapses, call 9-1-1 and begin pushing hard and fast in the middle of the victim’s chest until help arrives.
Learn More:

Hands-Only CPR



Hands-Only CPR (opens in new window) can be as effective as CPR with breaths. Watch the demo video and learn how to save a life in 60 seconds.
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