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Alert: Researchers Link Heart Attacks and Snowfall

By Sandy Schroeder

Depending on your age, snow may be a mixed blessing. Kids love it but adults often have to deal with it. If you get a lot of snow in your community, you may hire someone to keep the sidewalks and driveway clear, but if you shovel snow or run a snow blower, you should consider the risks.

Harvard Health took a look at the risks, saying at least 100 people, mostly men, die while shoveling snow every year in the U.S. Many more wind up in ER with chest pain or other heart symptoms.  They also noted Canadian researchers looked at heart attack rates the day after a snow from 1981 to 2014. They found 128,000 hospital admissions and more than 68,000 deaths due to heart attack.

Why It’s Dangerous

Looking closer, dealing with snow on sidewalks, steps, and driveways often becomes an impomptu performance done without a lot of preparation or thought.

Arm power needed – Arm muscle strength not normally needed in exercise is necessary for snow shoveling. 

Sudden impact – Pushing a heavy snow blower or shoveling snow raises the heart rate and blood pressure more quickly than most exercise.

Sedentary vs. active – Often people sit all day and exercise very little. Going from that mode to a wintry blast of snow shoveling can shock the whole system, causing way too much exertion.

Temperature question – Freezing temperatures can cause the blood vessels to constrict at the same time that snow shoveling puts heavy demands on the body, creating a no-win situation.

Snow depth matters – The Canadian research showed a 16 percent increase in hospital admissions, and a 34 percent increase in heart attacks, when snowfall was more than eight inches. It also showed accelerating rates of heart attacks as the snow depth increased.

Ongoing snowstorms - The longer it snowed, the higher the rate of heart attack and related deaths were reported.

There are many variables that play into the risks of show shoveling and snow blowing, but if snow sports are not your strong suit, and your exercise hours are lagging, this may not be the best time to be out there. Consider hiring a snow cleaning service and use the time to hit the gym instead.

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Lincoln, N.E.

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