Why do some people drop dead while shoveling snow?

Posted at 6:10 PM, Dec 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-12 18:10:39-05

Snow shoveling is something many of us need to do to get out of our driveway. 

When done correctly, it’s good exercise. Unfortunately, for some people, it’s a trigger for a heart attack.  

A study from researchers at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio found that people over 55 were more than four times likely to experience heart-related problems compared to younger patients. 

And if you’re a man, be careful, you’re twice as likely than women to experience symptoms.

Shoveling can cause your blood pressure and heart rates to spike. The cold air constricts your blood vessels and decreases the amount of oxygen received by your heart. 

People can completely underestimate how much exercise they’re really doing when shoveling snow. 

You need to watch for chest discomfort, discomfort in other areas of the upper body, shortness of breath, nausea or lightheadedness. 

If you experience any of these, head indoors right away. If you think you’re having a heart attack, call 911.

If you haven’t been exercising much, then don’t push yourself. 

Partha’s RX:

  1. Take it Slow and Use a Smaller Shovel. Lifting heavy snow can raise your blood pressure. It’s safer to lift smaller amounts.
  2. Don’t Eat a Large Meal, Smoke or Drink Caffeine Before Shoveling. These can cause extra stress on your heart.
  3. Don’t Drink Alcohol Before or After Shoveling. It can increase a person’s sensation of warmth and may cause you to underestimate the extra strain your body is under.
  4. Take Many Breaks. This can avoid overstressing your heart and gives you a chance to tune in and see how your body feels.

If you're inactive, out of shape and have a history of heart problems, you need to talk to your doctor before shoveling snow.

If you’re older, doctors tend to advise against shoveling if you have heart disease. If you’re worried about your heart, consider hiring a teenage neighbor or a snow plow service.