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  • Jim Townsend

Keep Your Heart Safe When Shoveling Snow

With what may be the first significant snowfall of 2019 in the forecast for this weekend, I wanted to share a few safety tips for shoveling snow.

Shoveling snow may seem like a safe activity, but with many Michiganders having limited physical activity this time of the year, the sudden stress to the heart can be fatal, especially with wet and heavy snow. I personally know two fine gentlemen who lost their lives in the past few years due to the impact of shoveling snow on their hearts. It is an activity that everyone, especially older men and women, should proceed with cautiously.

Here are some tips from the American Heart Association on keeping your heart safe when shoveling snow:

  • “Give yourself a break. Take frequent breaks to avoid overstressing your heart. Pay attention to how your body feels during those breaks.

  • Don’t eat a big meal before or soon after shoveling. Eating a large meal can put an extra load on your heart.

  • Use a small shovel or a snow thrower. The act of lifting heavy snow can raise blood pressure during the lift. It is safer to lift smaller amounts. When possible, simply push the snow.

  • Learn the heart attack warning signs and listen to your body. Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, have it checked out. Carry your cellphone in your pocket and call 911 immediately if you experience any signs of a heart attack.

  • Do not drink alcohol before or immediately after shoveling. Alcohol can increase a person’s sensation of warmth and may cause you to underestimate the extra strain your body is under in the cold.

  • Consult a doctor ahead of time. Before you start shoveling, talk with your doctor if you have a medical condition, do not exercise regularly or are middle-aged or older.

  • 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 the body’s heat can be lost through the head.”

If you have an elderly neighbor, please be considerate and give them a hand in the event of heavy snowfall.

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