Now that snow is back in New Jersey, many of us should be extra careful when handling snow on our property - it could very well save you a trip to the emergency room.

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Joaquin Barbara
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What you may not know, is that one the most mundane snow tasks could also be one of the most dangerous, especially if you're not in the best health.

Shoveling your driveway/sidewalk

Shoveling our driveways and sidewalks is a must - there's no getting away from it. Whether you do it yourself, or you get help from a neighbor/friend. It's gotta be done. But health officials are putting everyone on notice of a serious health risk we might not have even considered seriously.

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We're not talking about slipping on the ice and potentially spraining or breaking a bone (though those are both likely possibilities - you don't need to be reminded of that).

Heart attack risk

The American Heart Association has issued a warning about the potential risk of heart attacks/sudden cardiac arrest while shoveling snow.

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According to Dr. Barry Franklin, director of preventive cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation at Corewell Health East and AHA contributor:

“The movements of snow shoveling are very taxing and demanding on your body and can cause significant increases in your heart rate and blood pressure. Combined with the fact that the exposure to cold air can constrict blood vessels throughout the body, you’re asking your heart to do a lot more work in conditions that are diminishing the heart’s ability to function at its best."

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This is even more of a problem for those who:

  • Have sedentary lifestyles
  • Are obese
  • Are current/past smokers
  • Have diabetes
  • Have high cholesterol
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have suffered heart attacks or strokes in the past

How can I reduce my risk of cardiac arrest while shoveling snow?

The American Heart Association recommends:

  • If you're more at-risk, recruit someone else to shovel for you.
  • If you have to shovel yourself, don't rush! Pace yourself and take breaks.
  • Always cover your mouth and nose, and wear layered clothing with a hat and gloves
  • Be extra cautious when it gets windy. The air will feel colder and increase the effects of cold weather on your body.
  • Consider investing in a snow blower: "Research shows that using a snow blower raises the heart rate to around 120, compared to a heart rate of around 170 while shoveling."
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There's still a lot of winter left! Be sure to take care of yourself!


 

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