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Shoveling Snow - Exercise or Heart Attack Risk?

For those who are physically fit, you may see shoveling snow as exercise. It uses arm, back and leg muscles and increases your heart rate and burns about 300 calories in less than an hour. Whether you are physically fit or not, you should take care shoveling and be aware of the following:

  • Snow happens when it’s cold outside and a cold environment causes blood vessels to narrow which decreases oxygen to the heart.
  • Shoveling or using a snow blower can cause a sudden increase in blood pressure and heart rate which cause clots to form and dislodge.
  • The following symptoms are signs of a heart attack and you should stop shoveling immediately and call 911 if you think you are having a heart attack:
    • Squeezing chest pain
    • Shortness of breath
    • Pain down the left arm or up into the shoulder
    • Breaking out in a cold sweat.
    • More subtle symptoms like jaw pain, nausea or vomiting
    • The more of these symptoms you have the higher the risk.
  • Here are some tips before you start to shovel:
    • Warm up your muscles by stretching.
    • Cover your mouth and nose so you breathe in warmer air.
    • Shovel in light loads and take breaks if there is a lot of snow or you have a lot of area to shovel.
    • Drink water to stay hydrated.
    • Hire a teenage to shovel for you if you are not physically fit and at risk for a heart attack.