Shoveling snow can cause a heart attack in high-risk people

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Shoveling snow is a necessary evil in Kansas City these days.  More than 12 inches of snow fell last week, and another snow storm is predicted for Monday. However, shoveling snow stresses the heart, could lead to heart attacks and should be avoided by some in at-risk groups. 

According to the latest study on shoveling snow and heart attacks in a 1993 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, an estimated 1,128 people a year have a heart attack triggered by shoveling snow.

The American Heart Association recommends that people should not shovel snow if they are:

* Sedentary

* Heart-disease patients

* Diagnosed with high cholesterol or high blood pressure

and

* Smokers

The cold weather causes blood vessels to get smaller and the physical stress on the heart from repetitive shoveling increases blood pressure and creates stress on the heart that could lead to a heart attack in at risk groups. 

If you do have to shovel, the American Heart Association recommends:

• Use a small shovel: shovel many small loads instead of heavy ones

• Begin slowly and take frequent, 15-minute breaks

• Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration

• Dress in layers to avoid hypothermia (low body temperature) or overheating

• Cover your head and neck (50 percent of body heat is lost through the head and neck)

• Cover your mouth (breathing cold air can cause angina or trigger breathing problems

• Watch for warning signs of a heart attack: lightheadedness, dizziness, shortness of breath or tightness or burning in the chest, neck, arms or back. If you think you are having a heart attack call 911.

Also, during breaks and after shoveling, it's important not to drink coffee because caffeine is a stimulant and can raise your blood pressure causing more stress on your heart.

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