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The dangers of shoveling snow

Published: Jan. 27, 2021 at 5:53 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Judy Stevens and her friend Russ are clearing only a small portion of the driveway--just to get their cars out. The two of them are making quick work of the task, but Judy will say it’s not easy.

“Oh yea, it is like full of water thank heavens,” she says. “You don’t understand some of your underlying conditions and you go out and do things, that is the end,” she says[i]. The two know better than to overdo it.

But, unfortunately, not everyone understands just how strenuous shoveling snow can be. It requires more arm than leg work. Many people hold their breath as they are pushing or lifting the snow. A standard snow shovel, on average holds 5.7 pounds of snow. But the Sierra Cement which tends to fall in our area can weigh double that.

Combine all of that with a vascular system trying to circulate blood in cold conditions--you could run into heart problems.

“Shortness of breath, pain pressure or squeezing feeling in the chest, radiation of that pain to the jaw, the back, the left shoulder the arm. And even in some folks especially in women, nausea,” says Dr. Bret Frey of the warnings signs of a heart attack. Dr. Frey is president of the Northern Nevada Emergency Physicians.

One study over a 16-year period shows more than 1600 people have died from cardiac-related injuries associated with snow shoveling.

Those who have an underlying medical condition, are overweight, and lead a sedentary lifestyle are those most at risk of becoming a statistic. For those fortunate enough to have a snowblower the risks are not as great as snow shoveling.

However, the body is working to keep warm and that mechanism can increase blood pressure and heart rate.

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