Shoveling snow is not only an inconvenience, it can also be dangerous, and even deadly. Many people might be aware of the dangers of being outside in slippery conditions, and how this can lead to a painful slip that can break bones. However, shoveling snow can lead to even more severe injuries, including heart attacks. The Cleveland Clinic reports that more than 11,000 people visit hospitals each year due to injuries sustained while shoveling snow. Of these patients, 7% experience cardiac problems, many of which are heart attacks.
The cold weather plays a part in the increased risk of a heart attack or stroke while shoveling snow. Doctors warn that when the temperature drops far enough, your blood vessels constrict, causing an increase in blood pressure. Physicians warn that anyone with coronary artery disease, high cholesterol, peripheral arterial disease (PAD) and those who are elderly should not shovel snow.
A heart attack occurs when a sudden blockage occurs in a coronary artery (an artery that supplies blood to the heart), cutting the heart off from the flow of blood. Though the total blockage is sudden, it is often the result of years of heart disease that created a buildup of fat and cholesterol in the arteries, which is why those with arterial disease and high cholesterol are warned not to shovel snow. Currently heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.
Patients may suffer from malpractice in heart attack care if doctors fail to recognize symptoms, order diagnostic tests like EKGs or blood tests, fail to provide necessary emergency treatment, or fail to understand the patient's medical history. Chest pains should never be taken lightly, and doctors must be a specific standard of care in diagnosing and treating the cause of chest pain. When doctors fail to provide this standard of care, patients may suffer temporary or permanent disability.
The American Heart Association recommends the following tips for safe snow removal:
Take frequent breaks: Doing so can relieve the overall cardiac stress load
Refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages before shoveling: Alcohol can lessen an individual's awareness of cardiac distress
Don't eat a heavy meal prior to shoveling: Eating a large meal can put extra stress on the heart
Use a smaller shovel or snowthrower: Moving smaller loads put less stress on the heart
Know the warning signs of a heart attack and consult a doctor if you're unsure: The AHA recommends that everyone be aware of the warning signs of a heart attack (which include chest pressure/discomfort, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, nausea, cold sweats, and discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including the arms, back, neck, jaw, and stomach) but to always consult a doctor if you are unsure of your symptoms.