Expert warns that shoveling snow can be a deadly way to discover underlying heart conditions

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Dr John Bisognano (pictured), head of preventive cardiology at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, warns that people suffering from underlying heart conditions may be at risk of sudden death from shoveling snow this winter

Dr John Bisognano (pictured), head of preventive cardiology at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, warns that people suffering from underlying heart conditions may be at risk of sudden death from shoveling snow this winter

Shoveling the driveway is might be the worst part of a winter snow day. One expert warns that it could even deadly.

Dr John Bisognano, head of preventive cardiology at the University of Michigan Health Frankel Cardiovascular Center, warned that people who live stagnant lives could end up straining themselves to the point of death while shoveling snow.

Many people may not know they are quietly suffering a heart condition and could write off symptoms like shortness of breath or chest pain.

If someone has an unknown condition, does not regularly take part in physical activity, and attempts to take part in the strenuous activity, they could suffer a heart attack or go into cardiac arrest. 

The National Safety Council estimates that 100 people die every year from shoveling snow, almost all from a heart related condition. 

‘Many people haven’t done a lot of exercise for the rest of the year and shoveling snow is not only a heavy exercise, but an exercise that really stresses the entire cardiovascular system,’ Bisognano said in a university release.

‘Sometimes shoveling snow brings out the underlying cardiovascular diseases people have, and it may be the first time they notice that their exercise capacity is not what it used to be the year prior.’  

Shoveling snow is a very strenuous activity, and can put a lot of stress on a person's heart. Bisognano recommends frequent breaks if you are feeling tired, and to even give the job to someone else if a person feels out of breath or chest pain. Pictured: A man in South Bend, Indiana, shovels snow on February 2, 2022

Shoveling snow is a very strenuous activity, and can put a lot of stress on a person’s heart. Bisognano recommends frequent breaks if you are feeling tired, and to even give the job to someone else if a person feels out of breath or chest pain. Pictured: A man in South Bend, Indiana, shovels snow on February 2, 2022

Snow has slammed the nation in recent weeks, with the ‘Nor’Easter’ that struck the northeast last week dumping up to a foot of snow in some areas, and more storms still expected in the coming weeks.

Bisognano has some tips to avoid the potential of the simple chore turning into a tragedy.

First, he says to do a self-evaluation to determine whether you feel healthy and safe going out to shovel, especially if you are a person that is not in good shape.

‘If you’ve been active and you haven’t felt chest pain or shortness of breath, and you feel good today, shoveling is probably ok,’ he said  

He also recommends to take things slowly at first, and to stop if you for any reason feel different from how you felt shoveling snow in previous years.

People should also regularly stop to take a breath when they are tired, and if they are truly exhausted they should tap in another member of the household to complete the task instead.

‘I know for many people you’ve been shoveling snow for years, you’re used to this, you’ve been taking care of your house, but it’s important to remember that shoveling snow provides an unusual stress on your body because it’s cold, you’re doing physical activity that starts abruptly and it may be something you haven’t done for months in the past,’ Bisognano said. 

When a person is feeling the early signs of a heart problem, they should also seek out medical attention instead of trying to weather it out at home.

The National Safety Council estimates that 100 people die every year from shoveling snow. Pictured: A man in New York City, New York, shovels snow after the 'Nor'Easter' storm on February 2

The National Safety Council estimates that 100 people die every year from shoveling snow. Pictured: A man in New York City, New York, shovels snow after the ‘Nor’Easter’ storm on February 2

A person experiencing a heart attack or another severe heart issue is likely to survive if they quickly receive medical attention.

Staying at home and trying to ride it out could be a deadly risk to take, though.

‘Don’t just sit at home with a little chest pressure, a little chest pain,’ he said. 

‘That’s the time to seek medical attention and to seek it quickly so that we can give you the therapies, the good medications, the good procedures, that can solve your short-term problem.’

He also recommends for people to avoid shoveling snow if they have received treatment for a heart attack, heart failure or similar conditions before.

‘Make sure not to push yourself any further than you’re comfortable with,’ Bisognano said. 

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