Every year right around this time in parts of the country where snowfall is common, hospitals see an uptick in injuries stemming from snow removal. In 2013, for example, an estimated 119,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms and other medical settings after shoveling snow, according to the U.S. Product Safety Commission.
Typically, the aches and pains associated with shoveling snow are temporary, particularly for those who are young and in good shape otherwise. But health officials warn that if you haven’t exercised for awhile and aren’t used to heavy lifting, shoveling snow can be deadly.
On average, approximately 100 people in the United States die annually from shoveling snow, according to researchers from Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
“I believe we lose hundreds of people each year because of this activity,” Barry Franklin, director of preventive cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation at William Beaumont Hospital, told BBC News late last year.
He added that even among young people, their heart rate and blood pressure tend to rise higher than when they’re on a treadmill, discovering this in his findings. When the physical act of shoveling snow is combined with the cold air that’s breathed in, it creates a “perfect storm” for a heart attack.
The American Heart Association confirms this risk, noting how the cold temperatures and physical exertion associated with snow removal requires the heart to work harder so blood can support the body’s working parts. What individuals have to do is make sure that they’re lifting smart.
The following tips from the AHA can reduce your risk of injury at best and heart attack at worst:
Take frequent breaks
If you’re really laboring while shoveling, your body is trying to tell you something: take a break. Listen to your body’s cues. If you’re out of breath or tired, take a couple of minutes to rest. Pacing is crucial when there’s snow to remove.
Be mindful of snow consistency
Light, fluffy snow makes for quick and easy removal. It’s the wet snow that you have to be worried about, as the excess water can strain your heart, back, and arms. Instead of taking big scoops of snow, move small amounts at a time.
Lift with the legs
A common mistake is to lift with the back or the arms. It may get the job done, but not without excess stress. It’s far better to refocus that weight so that it’s in your legs. Bending at the knees and then lifting makes for easier transport.
Know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack
The body will give you cues if you are experiencing a heart attack. Classic signs are chest discomfort that’s continuous, pain in other parts of the body like the neck, back, or jaw and severe shortness of breath.
Heart arrhythmias and cardiovascular events like heart attacks are hereditary, meaning that they tend to run in families. It’s important to keep yourself and your family protected with the proper life insurance policy. For more information, speak with your Elephant insurance professional.