Great Bend-area residents should approach their snow shovels with caution, the American Heart Association says. Research shows cardiovascular events like sudden cardiac arrest may increase during cold winter months.
Although shoveling snow may not lead to health problems for most people, the combination of colder temperatures and physical exertion increases the workload on the heart. The risk of a heart attack during snow shoveling may increase for some. That’s why the association suggests being careful not to overstress you heart when shoveling. It’s also a bad idea to drink alcoholic beverages before of immediately after shovel. Alcohol may increase a person’s sensation of warmth, which may cause them to underestimate the extra strain their body is under in the cold.
Here are more tips from the American Heart Association to make snow shoveling safer:
• Give yourself a break. Take frequent rest breaks during shoveling so you don’t overstress your heart. Pay attention to how your body feels during those breaks.
• Don’t eat a heavy meal prior or soon after shoveling. Eating a large meal can put an extra load on your heart.
• Use a smaller shovel or consider a snow thrower. It is safer to lift smaller amounts more times than to lug a few huge shovelfuls. When possible, simply push the snow.
• Learn the heart attack warning signs and listen to your body, but remember: Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, have it checked out. Minutes matter!
It is also important to understand the heart attack warning signs prior to heavy lifting. Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren’t sure what’s happening and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
• Chest discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back.
• Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, such as pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach.
• Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
• Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Calling 9-1-1 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment. For more information, visit your physician or go online to www.heart.org.