Health officials warn of health risks while shoveling snow for this Ozarks storm

Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 4:55 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Health officials from CoxHealth and the American Heart Association say shoveling wet snow may lead to elevated risks for heart problems.

“We do see elevated risk of heart attacks around areas that receive heavy amounts of snowfall,” said CoxHealth physician’s assistant Marc Reitzner.

According to the National Safety Council, 100 people die from shoveling snow a year, and health experts say that’s from people doing too much too fast.

“Take your time,” said Lisa Meagher with the American Heart Association. “Don’t rush it. You’re increasing your heart rate and blood pressure when you’re doing this, and it increases the risk of heart attacks during this time.”

The American Heart Association says there are a few things you need to keep in mind when braving the winter weather.

Take those frequent breaks, don’t go out there and do a marathon of shoveling snow,” said Meagher. “Don’t eat a large meal before or after when you go out to shovel, and we recommend not drinking alcohol.”

Suppose you’re not used to regular physical exercise or have underlying health conditions. In that case, your body isn’t used to the amount of work shoveling. And it can have some serious consequences like heart attacks or strokes.

“If it’s a heavy amount of snow, typically, they push themselves too hard, too fast,” said Reitzner. “That can elevate the actual blood pressure, which can increase your risk of having a heart attack at that exact time.”

When in doubt, take precautions to stay safe and healthy

The American Heart Association also says using a smaller shovel can make it easier on your heart.

If you or someone you know experiences any shortness of breath, chest pain, or any other symptoms of a cardiac episode, immediately stop what you’re doing, go inside and call 911.

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