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Heart Risk Factors During Winter Weather

Some activities such as snow shoveling, walking through heavy wet snow or in a snow drift, downhill and cross-country skiing, snow-boarding, can strain the heart enough to cause a heart attack.

Snow shoveling can be more strenuous than exercising full throttle on a treadmill.

Tips for Protecting Your Heart

Before You Shovel Snow

  1. Avoid shoveling immediately after you awaken as most heart attacks occur early in the morning when blood is more prone to clotting. Wait for at least 30 minutes and warm up.

  2. Do not eat a heavy meal before shoveling: blood gets diverted from the heart to the stomach.

  3. Warm up your muscles before starting by walking for a few minutes or marching in place.

  4. Do not drink coffee or smoke for at least one hour before or one hour after shoveling or during breaks. These are stimulants and elevate your blood pressure and heart rate.

While Shoveling Snow

  1. Use a small shovel: shovel many small loads instead of fewer heavy ones.

  2. Begin slowly and take frequent, 15-minute breaks.

  3. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

  4. Dress in layers, to avoid hypothermia (low body temperature) or overheating.

  5. Cover your head and neck (50% body heat lost thru head and neck).

  6. Cover your mouth (breathing cold air can cause angina or trigger breathing problems).

  7. Watch for warning signs of a heart attack, lightheadedness, dizziness, being short of breath, or if you have tightness or burning in chest, neck, arms or back. If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911.

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