Put down the shovel

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Ready for the snow globe of winter? Your heart might not be.

Hospital visits for heart events increase a whopping 20% in the week following a snowstorm. Whether you know you have heart disease, have had a heart attack, or have risk factors such as being a smoker, overweight, or have diabetes, the risk is real.

A shovelful of wet snow weighs about 15 pounds. At 12 shovelfuls per minute, you’ll have tossed nearly a ton of snow in 10 minutes.

Here are some reasons to think twice before heading into the snowy season:

Blood clots. Studies have confirmed there is a greater tendency for blood clots to form when a person is exposed to cold temperatures. A heart attack is caused by the rupture of a blocked artery. Blood clots form at the area of blockage.

Constriction of blood vessels. Cold weather tightens blood vessels and this constriction puts an extra burden on the heart and lungs.

Shoveling stress. A higher level of exertion on top of cold can lead to shear stress, or a sudden acceleration of blood flow which can occur from a strenuous activity like shoveling. The sudden acceleration can cause an immediate risk of tear.

Keep in mind, it is not normal to have any of these symptoms when exerting yourself in cold weather:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Heaviness, pressure or tight feeling in the chest
  • Aching or heavy arms
  • Jaw discomfort

Don’t take chances! If you have chest pain or other heart attack symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately. Do not drive yourself to the hospital.

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