Why shoveling snow can be dangerous

Why shoveling snow can be dangerous
So far, they have 45 volunteers and 30 residents that need help. (Source: Kelly Kennedy)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -We all know that snow in the Mid-South is rare let alone big snowfall amounts. This year of course is different thanks to a La Niña pattern that has allowed for more storms systems to develop and move across the area and a dip in the jet stream that has made it possible that cold arctic air can settle over the region.

With more snow on the way, many of us may try to shovel snow in between storms to make it easier versus when the snow is completely gone. While that is a great idea and is recommended by many medical professionals, there are some things you should know before you grab the shovel. Researchers warn that each year about 100 people die shoveling snow and approximately 11,500 people are injured each year.

Research done on healthy young men found that their heart rate and blood pressure increased more than when they exercised on a treadmill. That elevation of heart rate and blood pressure combined with cold air was a dangerous combination. The cold air can cause arteries to constrict and decrease blood supply. Physicians says that this combination is the perfect conditioins for a heart attack. Snow shovelling takes a lot of work from the arms which is more taxing than working the legs. Pushing hard and straining to move wet and heavy snow is likely to cause a surge in heart rate and blood pressure according to physicians.

Some people hold their breath during the hard work, which can also put strain on the body. Researchers also found that the main time for clearing snow is between 6am and 10am which is when circadian fluctuations make us more vulnerable to heart attacks. Some physicians believe that those over 55 years of age should consider the risk before going to shovel snow and some think that people over 55 shouldn’t shovel snow at all.

People at highest risk are those who are sedentary, people who are known or suspected heart disease, people who smoke and being overweight drastically increase the risk.

Tips for safer snow shovelling

  • Push rather than lift the snow
  • Dress in layers
  • Take frequent breaks indoors
  • Don’t eat or smoke before shovelling
  • A blower is a better option
  • Clear snow once while it’s falling and again after storm passes

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