A fresh snowfall is a beautiful sight to see—unless it’s piled on your driveway or car and making you late for work. Snow shoveling is an inevitable, sometimes daily, task for snow-ridden regions. What many people don’t know, is that shoveling snow puts more than just a damper on your morning. If you’re not careful, it may actually put stress on your heart and increase your risk of a cardiac event, especially if you’re elderly, don’t exercise often, or have pre-existing heart disease. Cold weather alone can strain your body, and the sudden exertion of lifting a heavy shovel full of snow can make your heart work overtime.
So before next snowfall, be smart: Check with your doc to make sure shoveling is safe for you, and avoid these mistakes that may stress your heart.
MISTAKE: You don’t break until the job is done.
Taking frequent rest breaks helps prevent you from overstressing your ticker. When you do take a break, pay attention to how your body feels and don’t push yourself too hard if you’re not feeling up to it. (Time to delegate!)
MISTAKE: You don’t layer up.
Dressing smart keeps you warm and helps protect your heart. Wearing two to three layers of loose-fitting clothing keeps you warmer than a single thick layer. That’s because air gets trapped in between the layers, which provides extra insulation. Don’t forget to wear a hat, gloves, and scarf, too.
MISTAKE: You shove a lot on that shovel.
Think piling on as much snow as you can lift each time you shovel will get the job done faster? Think again. Just like pumping iron at the gym, the heavier the weight, the more body (and heart) power you need to put into each lift, and the faster you’re going to get tired. Using all your might to lift that pile of snow may also spike your blood pressure. Slow and steady wins the race. Shovel many light loads instead of fewer heavy ones.
MISTAKE: You booze up before or after shoveling.
Imbibing may seem like a fun way to warm up your insides on a cozy snow day, but it’s actually an illusion. Alcohol makes you feel warmer than you actually are, which can hide how hard your body (and heart) is actually working.
MISTAKE: You don’t listen to your body.
One of the most important things you can be mindful of while shoveling is paying attention to changes to your body. Shortness of breath, chest pain, lightheadedness, and arm pain are all signs of heart problems. If you feel any of these symptoms, don’t take it lightly—call 9-1-1 ASAP.
Stay in the know, avoid these mistakes, and be safe while shoveling snow.