CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With Winter weather bearing down for the season, the American Heart Association has chosen to share some snow shoveling tips for those at an increased risk of having a heart attack.
Due to a combination of colder temperatures and physical exertion, people who are sedentary, or have an existing heart condition, are more likely to have a heart attack while shoveling snow.
The association recommends that those who are outdoors in cold weather should avoid any sudden exertion, like lifting a heavy shovel full of snow, or walking through heavy, wet snow or snow drifts.
So here are a list of tips to get through the situation, courtesy of the American Heart Association:
- Give yourself a break. Take frequent rest breaks during shoveling so you don’t overstress your heart. Pay attention to how your body feels during those breaks.
- Don’t eat a heavy meal prior or soon after shoveling. Eating a large meal can put an extra load on your heart.
- Use a small shovel or consider a snow thrower. The act of lifting heavy snow can raise blood pressure acutely during the lift. It is safer to lift smaller amounts more times, than to lug a few huge shovelfuls of snow. When possible, simply push the snow.
- Learn the heart attack warning signs and listen to your body, but remember this: Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, have it checked out (tell a doctor about your symptoms). Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives — maybe your own. Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 911.
- Don’t drink alcoholic beverages before or immediately after shoveling. Alcohol may increase a person’s sensation of warmth and may cause them to underestimate the extra strain their body is under in the cold.
- Consult a doctor. If you have a medical condition, don’t exercise on a regular basis or are middle aged or older, meet with your doctor prior to the first anticipated snowfall.
- Be aware of the dangers of hypothermia. Heart failure causes most deaths in hypothermia. To prevent hypothermia, dress in layers of warm clothing, which traps air between layers forming a protective insulation. Wear a hat because much of your body’s heat can be lost through your head.
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but “most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort.”
Signs of a heart attack include:
- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
- As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
For any emergency, call 911 emergency medical services (EMS) for rapid transport and treatment. Have someone else drive you to the hospital; never drive yourself.
If a victim experiences cardiac arrest, heart stops beating or beats irregularly, they may become unresponsive or stop breathing. In the case of cardiac arrest, bystanders should first call 911 then start CPR right away.
If an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is available, use it as soon as possible. If more than one person is available, one should begin CPR while the other calls 911 and looks for an AED.
Hands-Only CPR involves pushing “hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of the disco song “Stayin’ Alive” (100 beats per minute) until help arrives.”
To learn more about CPR, visit www.heart.org/CPR.