John DeFeo, Senior Exercise Specialist, Offers Tips on How to Play it Safe

Shoveling snow is a known trigger for heart attacks.  And those with cardiac issues are especially at risk and should avoid shoveling at all costs.  It might be time to hire a teenager!


“When you venture out into the cold to start shoveling snow and are not prepared, the sudden temperature drop constricts your blood vessels throughout your arms and heart and can lead to serious issues,” says John DeFeo, Senior Exercise Specialist for Cardiac Rehabilitation at Bacharach. “People also have a tendency to hold their breath while they’re lifting snow – trapping air in the rib cage and putting pressure on the heart.”


Depending on the snow conditions, the earlier you start shoveling, the better. “If you’re getting a decent amount of snow, go out every hour and push the snow – as opposed to lifting the snow. Waiting until the next day may increase the weight of the snow – putting more strain on the body,” says John. Sprinkling deicer on driveways, sidewalks, steps helps, too.


Safe shoveling tips


  • Avoid alcohol or caffeinated beverages
  • Hydrate before, during and after shoveling snow
  • Prior to shoveling, walk around the house to increase blood flow and internal temperature of your body and stretch hamstring and calf muscles
  • Don’t lift the snow, push the snow
  • Breathe while pushing the snow instead of holding your breath
  • Invest in an orthopedic snow shovel (shovels that are bent)
  • If possible, use a snow blower or shovels that have wheels on the back and the blade in front

Take breaks

Bacharach uses a Rated Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale of 1-10. “If you’re out there shoveling snow and you feel like you’re at about a 5, it’s time to take a break,” says John. Some common signs of exhaustion include shortness of breath, sweating, and soreness. With these signs, it is important to go back inside and hydrate. The common time frame of shoveling snow should be done in intervals of 10-15 minutes.


Know the signs


For more information on Bacharach’s Cardiac Services, please call 609-748-2091.




More News