Snow Shoveling Puts Stress on the Heart

When the snow flakes start falling in New England many people skip over the beauty and quickly start worrying about the work that is involved in removal.  This is easily understood because of the hard work and time added onto our daily routines to provide safe access for ourselves and others. This added work therefore spoils its beauty and quickly becomes an aggravation. However, no matter how pretty others think the white stuff looks, we must acknowledge there is truth behind that thinking.

When we have the combination of cold temperatures, heavy wet snow, long driveways and/or sidewalk to shovel, this mixture, can put an added and extra strain on the heart. Therefore we would like to draw your attention to the act of shoveling. Try avoiding heavy loads and don’t be afraid to take many breaks. Please remember to use proper body mechanics by lifting with your legs instead of your back and never throw snow over your shoulder. Also, a good tip is to wrap a scarf around your mouth to humidify your inhalations.

We would like to encourage you to stop and listen to your body and if you experience any warning signs call 9-1-1 immediately. What you think is a pulled muscle may actually be a warning sign. Warning signs of a heart attack usually include chest discomfort or discomfort in other areas of the body such as the arms, neck, back, or jaw. Additionally, one can experience shortness of breath, or might even breaking out in a cold sweat, some nausea, and/or lightheadedness is common.  These can all be signs to get help.

Finally, we would like to recommend you consult with your doctor to see if you’re at risk for a heart attack before to the next snow storm. Here at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital’s the Nuclear Medicine Department routinely performs an exam for cardiovascular disease.  It is called, Myocardial Perfusion Imaging, and it uses a radioactive tracer to evaluate the blood flow to the heart muscle to see if a person is at risk for a heart attack.

The staff at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital would like to recommend if you know that you have history of heart disease, please arrange for another method of snow removal.  This season if at all possible save the shoveling for a professional and/or consider using their plow services.   Although, in conclusion, if you find yourself pushing around that white stuff this season remember to treat shoveling as tough exercise and don’t ignore the signs your body is telling you! Be safe this winter.