Ronn Franceschini has good advice for those who feel they must shovel.
As winter gets into full swing, emergency rooms are preparing for an increase in the number of heart attack cases caused by patients who have been shoveling snow.
“Many times patients that have had a heart attack associated with shoveling snow do not work out regularly. Some patients might have had an underlying heart condition that they were unaware of.,” said Ron Franceschini, M.Ed CSCS, the director of cardiac services for Bacharach. “People are also usually shoveling their entire driveway at once.”
Bacharach’s cardiac rehab experts
Shoveling snow is not something that people train for, and depending on the type of snow it can be a very demanding exercise. The weight of snow can vary based on how wet the snow is – it can be five pounds or 20 pounds.
“Part of the reason that we see an increase in heart attacks due to shoveling is because the weather is working against the body as the initial cold air puts a constriction on arteries,” explained Ron. “People also have a tendency to hold their breath when they are lifting snow and throwing it to the ground which traps air in the rib cage and puts pressure on the heart and compromises it.”
Here are some tips from Ron about how to prevent heart attacks while shoveling:
- Dress in layers so your body warms up you can shed some of your clothing
- Do warm up expercisesin the house prior to going out to shovel, this will help your prepare your body to shovel
- Don’t be in a rush and take frequent breaks.
- Drink water and make sure you are hydrated, just because its cold does not mean you aren’t sweating.
- Buy an orthopedic shovel, which is bent so there is less stress on the back and you use your legs more.
Some signs that you are having a heart include: shortness of breath, feeling that your heart is pounding, and developing unusual chest pain that spreads to the arms or jaw.
“If anyone is experiencing symptoms of a heart attack they need to remove themselves from the cold and get help immediately,” said Ron. “Don’t wait – call 9-1-1 – immediately. Time is muscle when you are having a heart attack the longer you wait the more muscle damage there will be.”