How to prevent a heart attack while shoveling snow

Health
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(WFXR) — The winter season means snow, ice and cold weather. While the snow may create winter wonderlands, it can also leave behind the chore of shoveling.

These colder months can have an impact on your health. Those who don’t take precautions could experience hypothermia, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

The AHA says that hypothermia — which children and the elderly are at risk of getting — is when your body temperature falls below about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Your body can’t produce enough energy to keep your internal body temperature warm. Common symptoms of hypothermia include lack of coordination, mental confusion, slowed reactions, shivering, and sleepiness.

Children and the elderly are at higher risk because they may have limited ability to communicate or impaired mobility, according to the AHA.

In order to keep warm, the AHA encourages you to wear several layers of clothing. This will help to trap air between layers and form a protective insulation.

Heat can also be lost through your head, so wearing a hat or head scarf can help keep heat from escaping. Hands, feet, and ears are also prone to losing heat rapidly and frostbite.

When shoveling snow, you also increase the potential risk of having a heart attack. According to the AHA, hundreds of people die during or just after snow removal in the U.S. each year.

“Among the many findings of our research, we saw that the cardiac demands of heavy snow shoveling, including marked increases in the heart rate and systolic blood pressure, could equal and exceed the upper levels achieved during maximal treadmill testing in sedentary men,” said Barry Franklin, a professor of internal medicine at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in Royal Oak, Mich. “In one study, we found that after only two minutes of snow shoveling, study participants’ heart rates exceeded the upper limit – 85% of maximal heart rate – commonly prescribed for aerobic exercise testing. The least fit subjects demonstrated the highest heart rates during shoveling.”

The Wytheville Fire and Rescue Department posted some helpful tips on Facebook to prevent a heart attack while shoveling.

  • Don’t shovel first thing in the morning. Most heart attacks happen in the morning when your blood is most likely to clot. Instead, get up and move before grabbing the shovel. Also, give the sun a chance to warm things up a bit.
  • Warm up before shoveling. Stretch and move around to get the blood flowing before undergoing any strenuous activity.
  • Use a smaller shovel. Wet snow can be heavy when the shovel is big.
  • Dress appropriately. Cover your hands, head, and mouth. Having a scarf around your mouth will help you inhale warmer air, as well as help you avoid respiratory problems.
  • Shovel in shifts. Take 15 minute breaks to help lessen the load on your heart.
  • Watch for warning signs. Tightness in the chess, lightheadedness, and dizziness are signs of a heart attack. Call 911 if you think you are having a heart attack.

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