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Take care of your heart when shoveling snow this winter

Take care of your heart when shoveling snow this winter

October 27, 2008 -   It’s time to gear up for another winter and, with it, the inevitable chore of shoveling snow. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan encourages those who will be shoveling snow this season to take care of their hearts. While clearing streets and sidewalks is important for safety reasons, lifting heavy loads of snow can quickly become a matter of safety for your heart.

Shoveling snow is an intense workout. The sudden physical exertion and cold winter air significantly increase the workload on the heart muscle, raising blood pressure, and straining the arteries’ ability to feed the heart muscle with oxygen. For people with underlying heart problems, sudden stressful exercise, like shoveling heavy snow, can be risky.

Hospital emergency departments verify that the number of acute heart problems rises when the temperature dips or after a heavy snowfall. One study found that a 10 degree drop in temperature translates into a 38 per cent increased risk of a recurrent heart attack.

TJ Biemans, Health Promotions Manager, Resuscitation, for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan, says that shoveling snow, when done with care, can be good for your heart as part of a regular exercise routine. Along with other healthy lifestyle choices, regular physical activity can help you to avoid heart disease and stroke.

“Look at snow shoveling as any other type of exercise. Warm up first, and only exert yourself to a level that is comfortable,” says Biemans. “Moderation is the key. Shovel more often and in shorter duration. Instead of letting the snow pile up, reduce the workload on your heart by shoveling more frequently for shorter periods of time.”

It is important to pay attention to your body while shoveling says Bieman. “Stop shoveling if you experience sudden shortness of breath, a feeling of discomfort in the chest, light-headedness, nausea, dizziness or severe headache. If you have a history of heart problems, be sure to talk with your doctor first. Shoveling snow can be a health concern because it combines cold air with exertion.”

Biemans recommends preparing for winter by taking a CPR course through the Heart and Stroke Foundation. The course prepares you to help your spouse, child, neighbor, or friend during an emergency medical situation.

For more information about CPR courses or healthy physical activity, call the provincial office of the Heart and Stroke Foundation toll-free at 1-888-473-4636, or visit


For more information contact:
Pat Rediger, Media Relations Coordinator
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan
Regina: 1-306-522-9326
Provincial office, toll-free: 1-888-HSF-INFO (473-4636)

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