Don’t answer yes too quickly. Shoveling snow can be hazardous, sending more than 11,000 people to the hospital every year. While most of the medical problems are orthopedic, 7 percent are cardiac, and deaths attributable to snow shoveling are usually traceable to the heart. In fact, when blizzards occur, deaths from coronary heart disease spike.
How does shoveling snow trigger a heart attack? First of all, it’s hard work. In one study, when shoveling heavy snow people reached heart rates of 173 beats per minute and systolic blood pressures of 200; these changes put enormous stresses on the heart and can cause a plaque in an artery to rupture, leading to a heart attack. In addition, cold air causes blood vessels to constrict as the body tries to prevent heat loss, and this can reduce blood flow to the heart. To ensure your safety, follow a few simple rules:
(1) dress warmly,
(2) use an ergonomically designed shovel and push the snow instead of lifting,
(3) start slowly (a warm-up) and
(4) every ten minutes, take a two-minute break in which you stand up straight and walk for a minute, then rest. Some people get a free pass: if you have coronary heart disease or if you have two or more risk factors for coronary heart disease, don’t shovel snow without your doctor’s permission.