A recent Canadian study reported that men are at a heightened risk of suffering a heart attack, as well as death after a snowfall. Each additional day that snow stayed on the ground after a storm had hit, the risk increased. Because the winter season is not yet over, this topic is especially relevant and luckily, there are also some helpful tips for safer snow shoveling.
The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. It took into account nearly 130,000 cases of heart attacks, or myocardial infarctions, from 1981 to 2014. Out of that total, nearly 70,000 people, primarily men, had died as a consequence. Interestingly, the study found no indication that women who shovel snow were at a higher risk of heart attack.
Shoveling snow is no easy feat; in fact, the heart exerts about 75% of its maximum rate in order to do it. The body comes under even more stress when the snow shoveling is particularly heavy. Additionally, most people have the habit of a sharp exhalation with their mouth closed when they shovel. This is referred to as a Valsalva maneuver, and is dangerous because it increases the pressure in the thoracic cavity because air does not escape.
The data showed that after one day of snowfall, men’s risk of heart attack barely increased at all. But, their chance of dying from a heart attack went up by 12%. This seems to indicate that although the chances of the event occurring are not significantly higher, because of various stressors, should there be one it is more likely to be deadly. When there was up to eight inches of snow, the chance of a heart attack increased by 16% and for death, 33%.
Aside from shoveling increasing a person’s heart rate and the dangerous nature of the Valsalva maneuver, there are other reasons behind the study’s results. When a person shovels, their arms are clearly being used heavily, moving up and down. This movement can allow a piece of a clogged artery to break off. When it is cold outside, blood vessels constrict. This also increases the risk of myocardial infarction.
When it comes to heart attacks, there are certain warning signs and symptoms to look out for. Noticing these can help save a life and decrease the amount of time someone has to wait to receive medical help. Some of the indicators are chest pain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, sweating, nausea, abdominal discomfort mimicking heartburn, and discomfort or pain in the neck, stomach, jaw, back and one or both arms.
Finally, here are a few recommendations for how to best limit the risks of heart attack and death from shoveling snow. These are recommended from The National Safety Council.
If you have a history of heart disease and cardiovascular problems, the National Safety Council encourages a discussion with a medical professional prior to shoveling. And, as always, if you begin to experience any symptoms such as dizziness or chest tightness, immediately stop and call a medical professional.
The Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at Galfand Berger have successfully represented clients in an array of legal matters. If you have any questions or concerns, an attorney at Galfand Berger, LLP can help. With offices located in Philadelphia, Reading and Bethlehem, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.