So many of us were snowed-in over the Holidays and it turns out a lot of people ended up in the Avera Heart Hospital Emergency Department with chest pains. Shoveling snow can be great exercise, but it can also be deadly if you have heart disease and don't know it.
Shoveling is a safe activity for most people, but for those of you with cardiovascular disease or other heart problems you are at risk of suffering a heart attack. If you are a smoker, diabetic, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a long family history of heart disease you should see a doctor anyway, but that's especially true before you do an intense exercise like shoveling.
Avera Heart Hospital Emergency Department Director Dr. John Jerstad says, "Shoveling can put a lot of stress on your heart, not only is it a lot of work with the physical activity of moving heavy weight, but also when it's cold outside your body's normal response is to speed up your heart rate to distribute blood and warmth and this in fact will greatly increase the stress on your heart."
Instinctually when it's cold out and you know you are going outside, you want to grab a cup of hot coffee before shoveling. Doctors says that's actually one of the worse things you can do because coffee has a lot of caffeine in it and caffeine acts as a stimulant that makes our heart beat faster. So dump the coffee and fill up on water, before you go out, instead.
Dr. Jerstad says, "You need to stretch out your muscles and make sure you are hydrated before you take a step outside to shovel. If you get chest pain abnormal sweating, light headedness then you should come inside right away."
Dr. Jerstad says you need to look at shoveling like any other athletic sport. Remembering that just being in the cold puts a strain on our body so start low and go slow. If the snow is piled high, don't try to do the entire driveway in one sitting. Make sure to stretch out, take breaks and be patient so you don't end up being a patient in the ER.
Dr. Jerstad says if you experience chest pain that goes away when you quit shoveling you need to make an appointment with your doctor. If the pain persists you need to call 911 immediately.