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How to avoid a heart attack while shoveling snow


After the first heavy snow of the season, local health care providers are urging people to be careful while shoveling.

Shoveling heavy snow is no easy task.

The activity uses all the major muscle groups and incorporates strength, as well as cardio.

That’s why snow removal can sometimes lead to heart attacks.

“Many don’t realize that shoveling snow can be an extremely physically demanding task that some people’s bodies just aren’t ready to handle,” says Dr. Daniel Krause, a cardiologist with Aspirus Health. “Instead of trying to walk or run a mile daily, many people are suddenly jumping into a marathon. They go beyond what they are capable of doing and because of that they develop a lack of blood flow to the heart and have a heart attack.”

Krause says people older than 60 with underlying heart conditions, high blood pressure or diabetes are at the highest risk of experiencing a heart attack.

To avoid one, he recommends warming up and starting slow, lifting snow with your legs (not your arms and back) and taking breaks when you need them.

If you do experience heart attack symptoms like shortness of breath or harsh chest pain, Krause says take a rest. And if those symptoms persist after five minutes, seek medical help.

“Snow removal may be a necessary task,” he says, “but it’s not worth having a heart attack over.”

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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