We might sing, “Let it snow,” but winter weather loses its charm when it comes time to shovel.
Not only can shoveling snow lead to slips, falls and backaches, it also raises the risk of heart attack.
Why so dangerous? Exercise raises heart rates, while cold temperatures constrict blood vessels and arteries. The combination can prove deadly. For men aged 35 to 49, shoveling snow triples the risk of heart attack death.
Individuals with heart disease, a history of heart attack, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, or who smoke, should consult their doctor before attempting to shovel snow. Seniors and those unused to strenuous exercise should also take caution.
Luckily, some products make snow removal safer for those at-risk of heart attack. Snowblowers eliminate lifting and throwing. Another example, HeatTrak mats, keep snow from accumulating. The waterproof mats, which are electrically heated, melt snow at a rate of two inches per hour. Homeowners who turn on the mats when snow begins to fall will enjoy clear stairs or walkways, no shoveling required. These mats are designed to be left out for the entire winter season — then simply roll them up and store them away in the spring.
If you do need to shovel, there are ways to reduce the risks. Here are some quick tips for safer shoveling:
Take it easy. Clearing your driveway isn’t a competition. Stretch before starting. Instead of lifting and throwing huge piles of snow, skim two to three inches of snow at at time. If you need to avoid heavy lifting, use your shovel to push. rather than throw, snow to the side. Take a break every fifteen minutes, or when you feel uncomfortably tired or cold.
Keep warm. Wear layers, even if you know that you’re going to work up a sweat. Staying hydrated is important, but stick to water or hot cocoa — the caffeine in coffee can constrict blood vessels.
Avoid back strain. Bend your knees, and keep your back as straight as possible as you lift. Don’t bend at the waist, and step in the direction that you’re throwing snow.
Know the warning signs. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, fainting or shoulder, back, neck or arm pain, stop shoveling immediately and seek medical help.