According to Amy Hess, PT, CCS, the Cardiac Care Manager for HealthAlliance Hospital: Broadway Campus, a member of WMCHealth, cold weather can increase your risk for heart attack. “Cold weather affects the heart by increasing the demands on the cardiovascular system to maintain body temperature. In addition, cold weather can cause a narrowing of the airways called bronchospasm, making it more difficult to move air in and out of the lungs,” Hess explains. Then, when you add to the mix that snow shoveling is intense cardiovascular work but that not every shoveler is accustomed to such a rigorous workout, it can be a recipe for disaster. “During the winter months, we see an increased number of heart attacks associated with shoveling in cold weather,” she says.
How can I protect my heart while shoveling?
According to Hess, if you are susceptible to cold weather (those who have had previous cardiac events and anyone with cardiac risk factors), you should take a little extra care by following these steps:
1. If you have to perform some amount of snow removal, it’s best to cover your nose and mouth with a scarf, to limit bronchospasm.
2. Wear layers of clothing and make sure your head is covered, to reduce the amount of heat loss.
3. Limit your time performing the activity, so you do not tax the cardiac system for more than 5 to 10 minutes at a time.
4. If you’re unable to speak in an audible manner, that means the intensity of the activity is too high, and you should rest.
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