PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — As a snowstorm expected to dump heavy weighted wet snow in Central Illinois approaches, a local doctor has tips for staying safe when shoveling so-called “heart attack snow”.
Dr. Janelle Smith, internist at Springfield Clinic Morton Primary Care, said a Canadian study showed there is a 16 percent increased risk of having a heart attack while shoveling snow and 34 percent increased risk of dying from a heart attack after a snowstorm.
“Heart attack snow is essentially…really heavy wet, kind of slush wintry sloppy mess that is not good for making snowmen,” said Smith.
Smith said shoveling outside in the cold can cause vasoconstriction, which can lead to heart attacks.
“So your blood vessels actually will constrict down to try to preserve your own body heat….That same phenomenon can raise your blood pressure and then the physical exertion of moving that snow, because it’s heavy, heavy, hard work and a lot of labor. So those two things combined can trigger a heart attack,” she said.
To avoid the risk of heart attacks, Smith said to dress appropriately for the weather and use smaller shovels and scoops.
“I know it’s a pain in the rump and it takes much longer to do, but if you’re going to be lifting all of that snow, it is best to take it in shorter and less physically heavy stacks to reduce the increase it has on your heart rate and blood,” she said.
Smith said if you start developing shortness of breath, it’s time to stop.
“If that shortness of breath doesn’t resolve quickly, it’s time to call 911…it is always best to go get it checked out if you’re having any symptoms, especially that heavy elephant sitting on my chest crushing chest pain,” she said.