Shoveling increases heart attack risk

Even though we’ve just come out of winter and the weather is becoming warmer in the Northern hemisphere, I hope you keep the following alert in mind when winter sets in again… especially if you want to protect yourself from a heart attack.

Weather-wise, February and March can be worse than January. And if you live in the Scottish Highlands, then it’s not unheard of to sometimes see snow in May.

And while snow may look picturesque, according to researchers, it can be a heart attack waiting to happen.

And that’s true especially if you’re already at risk of a heart attack and you live a sedentary life.

US research has shown that Over 1,600 people die from shovelling-related heart attacks every year, most of them over age 55. Just being in the cold air poses a danger to your heart: It constricts the blood vessels throughout the body, causing your blood pressure to soar.

And when you step out into the cold sto clear your driveway of a few inches, the combination of low temperatures and vigorous exercise is the perfect storm for a heart attack.

You see, using your arms is actually more taxing on the heart than leg work, so it’s a dangerous situation.

Now, I don’t expect you to sit inside your home all winter, but you don’t have to risk your life either. Ask your doctor if he or she thinks you’re healthy enough to shovel snow yourself. If you’re not, get help from a healthy and strong neighbour, friend or relative.

If you decide to tackle it yourself, avoid shovelling first thing in the morning, when your blood is more prone to clot. That’s actually when most heart attacks happen… and it’s not just shovelling snow, the same risk applies to early-morning exercise in cold weather.

And – at least an hour before AND after shovelling (or exercise) – stay away from stimulants that elevate your blood pressure and heart rate, like coffee and cigarettes.

Don’t get me wrong: Shovelling can actually be great exercise if you’re strong enough to do it. But you don’t want it to be the first time your muscles and heart get a workout in ages.

And since we are enjoying warmer days,  make use of this time to get out and get active so that you focus on your overall health all year long.

Wishing you the best of health,

Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Nutrition & Healing

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