Shoveling snow can trigger a heart attack

older woman shoveling heavy snow, shoveling snow, heart attack triggers, stressful work for heart, protect your heart, snow shoveling may trigger heart attack

Digging out from a big snowfall is stressful enough. In the midst of all the other preparations that keep your life at a busy pace during a snowstorm, it’s important to remember not to neglect your heart health.

“Lifting heavy, wet snow can cause undue stress on your heart,” explains Dr. Gautam Shroff, Director of Cardiology at Hennepin Healthcare.

“The work of lifting and throwing snow, particularly heavy and wet snow, can put significant stress on the heart. Furthermore, the cold weather and temperatures surrounding you can lead to constriction of the heart (coronary) arteries.”

“Therefore,” Dr. Shroff continues, “shoveling can become a ‘stress test’ which is particularly important for patients with underlying heart conditions, such as coronary artery disease. If you have not been active and do not know your activity limitations, avoid picking up a shovel during a massive snowstorm. This is not the ideal time or place to uncover a heart condition.”

Dr. Shroff describes the following symptoms of a heart attack, which should never be ignored:

“Pressure, squeezing or tightness in the chest that lasts minutes at a time, typically precipitated by physical or emotional stress, and goes away with resting are classic symptoms of heart pain, also called ‘angina’, and can signal an ongoing or pending heart attack. Symptoms can also involve aching in the shoulder, upper arm, or jaw, nausea, unusual shortness of breath, and sweating. Also, many individuals, especially the elderly and women, may not experience the typical symptoms described in textbooks, so it’s important to pay attention to any symptoms.”

If you experience any of these symptoms, stop what you’re doing and call 911 right away.Dr. Gautam Schroff cardiologist, shoveling snow, heart attack triggers, stressful work for heart, protect your heart, snow shoveling may trigger heart attack

“If you must shovel, avoid a lot of heavy lifting, use your legs not just your arms,” Dr. Shroff says. “It’s also important to take frequent breaks to give your heart a rest, avoid exposure to the cold temperatures for prolonged periods of time – and of course it bears repeating to call 911 right away if you experience any signs of heart attack. Ideally, maintain regular levels of physical activity on a regular basis so you are not in need to undergo undue physical activity during a snowstorm. Aerobic activity for about 30 minutes for most days of the week will give you a good sense of what your body can manage.”

Hennepin Heart Center at Hennepin Healthcare has a long tradition of delivering patient-centered, high-quality cardiovascular care.  Using the latest interventions, cardiac specialists provide expertise across the entire range of cardiac conditions including arrhythmia management, cardiac catheterization, rehabilitation, cardiovascular surgery, monitoring and imaging, and cardiac therapies.

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