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Be careful: Shoveling wet, heavy snow can be a trigger for heart attacks

Milwaukee resident with shovel and black jacket digs out from storm
Posted at 10:13 AM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2021-02-15 10:57:20-05

WISCONSIN — With several inches of snow possible this weekend, it's important you know the potential dangers of shoveling snow.

Rain in southeast Wisconsin is expected to shift to snow Friday evening and through Saturday. Near the lake, accumulations up to 3 inches are expected in areas near the lake and up to 6 inches inland.

Harvard Medical School published an article a few years ago talking about how shoveling snow can cause heart attacks because many of the people who do shovel, don't exercise regularly.

"Picking up a shovel and moving hundreds of pounds of snow, particularly after doing nothing physical for several months, can put a big strain on the heart," Harvard medical wrote in their article.

The medical school also wrote that the cold weather raises blood pressure which can interrupt blood flow to part of the heart and make blood more likely to form clots.

So, if you have to shovel snow this weekend, it's important you know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Harvard Medical School listed the symptoms as a squeezing pain in the chest, shortness of breath, pain that radiates up to the left shoulder and down the left arm, or a cold sweat.

Other symptoms can include jaw pain, lower back pain, unexplained fatigue or nausea, and anxiety.

You should also take the following when shoveling:

  • Warm-up your muscles before starting
  • Shovel many light loads instead of fewer heavy ones
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Don’t feel that you need to clear every speck of snow from your property
  • Head indoors right away if your chest starts hurting, you feel lightheaded or short of breath, your heart starts racing, or some other physical change makes you nervous

If you haven't been working out lately and are worried about shoveling, hire a neighborhood teen, friend, or family to do the work.

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