In a statement from the American Heart Association, scientists urge caution when picking up that shovel or even starting the snowblower.
They suggest that many people may face an increased risk of a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest after shoveling heavy snow.
The statement notes snow shoveling among the physical activities that may place extra stress on the heart, especially among people who aren’t used to regular exercise.
Numerous scientific research studies over the years have identified the dangers of shoveling snow for people with and without previously known heart disease.
The team says the strain of heavy snow shoveling may be as or even more demanding on the heart than taking a treadmill stress test.
For example, after only two minutes of snow shoveling, people’s heart rates exceeded 85% of the maximal heart rate, which is a level more commonly expected during intense aerobic exercise testing. The impact is hardest on those people who are the least fit.
The team says winter weather in general can contribute to the increased risk. Cold temperatures may increase blood pressure while simultaneously constricting the coronary arteries.
Those factors, combined with the higher heart rate from the extra physical effort, may increase the risk for heart disease events.
There are even studies that show an increased risk of heart attacks among people using automatic snow blowers.
Similar to the extra exertion of pushing a shovel, pushing a snow blower can raise heart rate and blood pressure quickly.
The team says the most important thing is to be aware of the dangers, be prepared and take it easy, including taking short breaks.
Even people who are relatively healthy should note that pushing the snow with a shovel is better physically than lifting and throwing it.
For more information about heart health, please see recent studies that avocados can support a heart-healthy diet, and results showing after COVID-19, watch for these potential heart and brain problems.
The study was conducted by Barry Franklin et al and published in Circulation.
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