Unearthing winter health hazards

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It seems like snow has been in the forecast just about every other day this winter. While for most people shoveling snow may not lead to health problems, The American Heart Association warns that the risk of a heart attack during snow shoveling can increase for others. Some studies even suggest harsh winter weather may increase a person’s risk of heart attack due to overexertion.

The cold winter months can be very hard on people with potential and existing heart problems. When you’re outdoors in the cold weather, be aware that your heart is working harder. If you’re not accustomed to physical activity you should avoid sudden exertion, like lifting a heavy shovel full of snow. Even walking through heavy, wet snow or snow drifts can strain a person’s heart.

Here are five tips from the American Heart Association for shoveling smarter, not harder:

1. Consult a doctor. If you have a medical condition or don’t exercise on a regular basis, schedule a meeting with your doctor prior to the first anticipated snowfall.

2. Take frequent breaks during shoveling so you don’t overstress your heart.

3. Don’t eat a heavy meal prior or soon after shoveling since it can place an extra load on your heart.

4. Don’t drink alcoholic beverages before or immediately after shoveling. Alcohol may increase a person’s sensation of warmth and may cause them to underestimate the extra strain their body is under in the cold.

5. Be aware of the dangers of hypothermia. Heart failure causes most deaths in hypothermia. Wear a hat and dress in layers of warm clothing, which traps air between layers forming a protective insulation.