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Death By Snow Shovel

I know it’s a little early, but here in Wisconsin we’ve already seen some of the white stuff and we just put away the Halloween decorations and masks. Ok, I’ll give you that, it is pretty and can be romantic and fun to play in, making snow angels and sledding, skiing, and snow ball fights. But did you know that over 100 people a year die of cardiac arrest after shoveling snow? So can we consider this “White Hazardous Waste Removal?” Just a thought.

So what is snow shoveling? It’s a form of isometric exercise. So if you’re startingsnow shoveling out on an exercise program, you should always consider your present state of health and talk to your doctor about it. In my past life I had a bit of a “wake up” call. When I was 52 I had some symptoms which did concern me, and I actually was exercising which was a trigger. I did casually mention it to my wife (after about six months) who immediately stopped my life in motion and made all the right calls to get me in to see a doctor. In less than two days I was given nitro glycerin to make sure I could make it to the next day and scheduled for a heart catheterization. The cardiologist doing the procedure wouldn’t let me go home without first doing a 5 by-pass open heart surgery. I always prayed so I could be patient I never meant to be one. So now getting back to snow shoveling and the environment surrounding it. Here’s what to consider:

1. Your age and current health status.

2. Tell somebody you’re going out to shovel snow, invite them to come with you.

3. Proper clothing: shoveling at night? Consider “hi vis” winter wear, dress in layers covering your head and neck. Cover your mouth as breathing cold air can trigger angina or breathing problems. Cold temperatures stress your cardiac system and cause the arteries to contract so blood supply decreases, this can lead to cardiac arrest.

4. Besides cold temps this type of exercise will strain your muscles. Muscles you probably haven’t used in a while. This will raise your heartbeat and if you’ve got narrowing arteries this is going to be a problem especially in colder temps.

5. Stretch your muscles before you start, and stay hydrated. Take frequent breaks.

6. If you’ve had a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, or have elevated cholesterol levels, or are an out of shape couch potato, you should consider getting help with that snow shoveling chore. Perhaps your church or community has a list of volunteers who are happy to help you. Don’t have a snowblower? You might consider one.

7. Know the signs of heart attack, and keep your cell phone handy to call 911 if necessary.

Winter snow falls are great times to get out and see the neighbors, just not in the funeral home. So take care of yourself, be prudent, and pray for spring.

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