Snow can be a nuisance. It can mean waking up early to dig out your car, a stressful commute to work, and can leave you with a chill all day. But snow can also be dangerous for your health.
Many people aren’t conditioned to the physical stress of vigorous outdoor activities, like lifting a heavy shovel full of snow. Even walking through heavy, wet snow or snow drifts can strain some people’s heart. Cold temperatures, high winds, snow and rain also can steal body heat. As snow starts to fall in Vermont, it’s important to know how you can protect your heart and your health this winter.
To help make snow removal safer, here is a list of practical tips.
- Give yourself a break. Take frequent rest breaks during shoveling so you don’t over-stress your heart. Pay attention to how your body feels during those breaks.
- Learn the heart attack warning signs and listen to your body.
- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes – or it may go away and then return. 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. This can occur with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs. Other possible signs include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.
- Consult a doctor if you have a medical concern or question or if you are experiencing symptoms of a medical condition (such as heart disease or diabetes), prior to exercising in cold weather – especially if this is a substantial increase over your usual level of activity.
- Be aware of the dangers of 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.
- Learn CPR. Effective bystander CPR, provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest, can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival. Hands-only CPR makes it easier than ever to save a life. If an adult suddenly collapses, call 9-1-1 and begin pushing hard and fast in the middle of the victim’s chest until help arrives.
For more heart-healthy tips, please visit heart.org.