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Be careful: Shoveling wet, heavy snow can be a trigger for heart attacks

Winter Weather New Hampshire
Posted at 8:25 AM, Feb 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-15 11:30:47-05

With a massive winter storm impacting a large swath of the United States, it's important you know the potential dangers of shoveling the snow that's expected to blanket parts of the country.

The National Weather Service (NWS) says the storm will lift from the southern Plains to the Northeast through Tuesday, with snow, sleet and freezing rain in the forecast. The agency says people in the path of the storm can expect power outages, travel disruptions and some may see large snow accumulations.

"A large swath of 6 to 12 inches of snow is forecast from the Ohio Valley and eastern Great Lakes to northern New England," wrote NWS. "South of the heavy snow axis, freezing rain is expected to cause a plethora of problems with over a tenth of an inch of ice in the forecast from far east Texas northeastward to southern New England."

Many people will dig out their snow shovel to clear their walkways and driveways, which seems like a harmless activity, but it can be dangerous.

Harvard Medical School published an article a few years ago talking about how shoveling snow can cause heart attacks because many of the people who do shovel, don't exercise regularly.

"Picking up a shovel and moving hundreds of pounds of snow, particularly after doing nothing physical for several months, can put a big strain on the heart," Harvard medical wrote in its article.

The medical school also wrote that the cold weather raises blood pressure which can interrupt blood flow to part of the heart and make blood more likely to form clots.

So, if you have to shovel snow, it's important you know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Harvard Medical School listed the symptoms as a squeezing pain in the chest, shortness of breath, pain that radiates up to the left shoulder and down the left arm, or a cold sweat.

Other symptoms can include jaw pain, lower back pain, unexplained fatigue or nausea, and anxiety.

You should also take the following when shoveling:

  • Warm-up your muscles before starting
  • Shovel many light loads instead of fewer heavy ones
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Don’t feel that you need to clear every speck of snow from your property
  • Head indoors right away if your chest starts hurting, you feel lightheaded or short of breath, your heart starts racing, or some other physical change makes you nervous

If you haven't been working out lately and are worried about shoveling, hire a neighborhood teen, friend, or family to do the work.

This story was originally published by Julie Marshall at WTMJ.