American Heart Association warns of snow shoveling health hazards

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(NEWS10) — As the Capital Region prepares for Wednesday’s snow storm, the American Heart Association is warning about the health hazards during severe winter weather. They say the risk of a heart attack during snow shoveling may increase for some, as the combination of colder temperatures and physical exertion increases the workload on the heart.

People who are outdoors in cold weather should avoid sudden exertion, like lifting a heavy shovel full of snow. Even walking through heavy, wet snow or snow drifts can strain a person’s heart, they say.

For those who are sedentary, or people with existing heart conditions like heart failure, high blood pressure or cholesterol, the increased workload on the heart from activities such as shoveling of heavy snow, can put them at higher risk for heart attack—where a clot blocks blood flow to a heart artery causing the heart muscle damage or tissue death. This is a life-threatening medical emergency.

To help make snow removal safer, the American Heart Association has compiled the following suggestions:

Source: American Heart Association

According to the Association, most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.  
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.  
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort. 
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness      
  • As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

Call 911 emergency medical services (EMS) for rapid transport to the emergency room. Don’t drive yourself—have someone drive you to the hospital right away.


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