How The Snow Brings On A Heart Attack

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Jill Chadwick

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Office: (913) 588-5013

Cell: (913) 223-3974

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jchadwick@kumc.edu

Last year during heavy snow, at least seven people died while shoveling snow in three Midwest states. With snow in the Kansas City area forecast, cardiologists at The University of Kansas Hospital have a warning for those wanting to shovel.

Dr. Brian Weiford explains that colder temperatures and the lack of activity most of us see over the winter months place extra demands on the human heart, so it's important to stay alert to exertion warnings.

Among the early warning signs of overtaxing your heart are dizziness, extreme fatigue, feeling faint and in more serious cases, chest pains.

Even people in relatively good shape can be at risk during cold winter days. 

Snow shoveling can be more strenuous than exercising full throttle on a treadmill. While this may not be a problem if an individual is healthy and fit, it can be dangerous if not.

Shoveling, even pushing a heavy snow blower, can cause sudden increase in blood pressure and heart rate, and the cold air can cause constriction of the blood vessel and decrease oxygen to the heart. All these work in concert to increase the work of the heart and trigger a potentially fatal heart attack.

Individuals who are at risk of a heart attack during cold outdoor activities include:

  • Those with a prior heart attack
  • Those with known heart disease
  • Those with high blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • Smokers
  • Those who lead a sedentary lifestyle

Such individuals should think twice about shoveling snow and should talk to their doctor before taking on such a task.