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Snow Shoveling Alert

According to recent weather reports, snow is on it's way!  Whether you eagerly look forward to the first snowfall or dread it, chances are that you'll soon be getting out the snow shovel out to clear sidewalks and driveways. Snow shoveling is not a problem for most people, but for some of us,  the risk of heart attack rises when extra physical exertion combined with colder temperatures increases the workload on the heart. A study published in the January, 2012 edition of Clinical Research in Cardiology emphasizes these concerns.  Researchers included patients from the two previous winter seasons and discovered that of the 500 patients who came to the hospital with heart problems during this period, 7 per cent  started experiencing symptoms while shoveling snow. Another 7 per cent occurred following snow-shoveling. The researchers also found three primary factors that put individuals at a high risk when shoveling snow. Those factors are: gender - with 31 of the 35 patients being male, family history of premature coronary artery disease in 20 of the 35 patients, and  smoking, where 16 out of 35 patients were smokers. You can protect yourself from much of the risk of heart attack while shoveling snow by following these simple rules:
  • Take breaks. Frequent rest breaks during shoveling will help avoid overstressing your heart. Pay attention to how your feel.
  • Don’t eat a heavy meal before or soon after shoveling. It can put an extra load on your heart.Use a smaller shovel. The act of lifting heavy snow can cause sharp rises in blood pressure. Lift smaller amounts more times and push the snow when possible.
  • Watch for warning signs. Listen to your body. Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, tell a doctor about your symptoms. Time is of the utmost importance!
  • Don’t drink alcoholic beverages before or immediately after shoveling. A nice toddy may warm you up, but it can also lead people to underestimate the extra strain on their systems.
  • Avoid hypothermia. Dress in layers of warm clothing, trapping air between layers forms a protective insulation and don't forget to wear a hat!
  • See your doctor. If you have a medical condition, don’t exercise on a regular basis, or are middle aged or older, talk to your physician before start shoveling.
Most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. If you think you may be having a heart attack, it's vital that you get help immediately. Signs that indicate a heart are:
  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Pay attention to pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath – with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
The most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort,. Women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, if you experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain, seek medical help. Finally, shovel with a friend or neighbor! You won't be alone if there is an emergency and you'll have less work!

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