Think about health, safety before you shovel

Proper equipment, technique and understanding risks can help prevent health issues


UTICA — For most, shoveling the driveway or the sidewalk is an inconvenient chore — and an unwelcome sign that winter has fully arrived.

However, for some, the American Heart Association warns, shoveling comes with a variety of risks, some minor and some major.

To help make snow removal safer, the American Heart Association and the federal Centers for Disease Control have compiled a list of practical tips:

Take frequent rest breaks during shoveling so you don’t overstress your heart;  

Don’t eat a heavy meal prior or soon after shoveling. Eating a large meal can put an extra load on your heart;

Get a good shovel. Shovels come in all shapes and sizes with some specially designed erogonomic designs that are made to alleviate stress for those with back pain or other issues. Consider using a small shovel as the act of lifting heavy snow can raise your blood pressure.

When shoveling, stand with your feet about as wide apart as your hips for balance, and keep the shovel close to your body. Be sure to push the snow instead of lifting it if possible. If you have to lift, bend your knees and lift with your legs. Avoid twisting or throwing snow over your shoulder.

Don’t drink alcoholic beverages before or immediately after shoveling. Alcohol may increase a person’s sensation of warmth and may cause them to underestimate the extra strain their body is under in the cold. 

Consult a doctor. If you have a medical condition, don’t exercise on a regular basis or are middle aged or older, meet with your doctor prior to shoveling;

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.

For those who are sedentary, or people with existing heart conditions like heart failure, high blood pressure or cholesterol, the increased workload on the heart from activities such as shoveling of heavy snow, can put them at higher risk for heart attack.

Heart Attack
Warning Signs

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense — the “movie heart attack,” where it is clear what’s happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:

Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. 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 with or without chest discomfort. 

Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness      

As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

Call 9-1-1 emergency medical services (EMS) for rapid transport to the emergency room and treatment when they arrive on the scene. Don’t drive yourself--have someone drive you to the hospital right away.

What can you do?

Bystanders can help cardiac arrest victims survive, if they act fast. First, call 9-1-1 and start CPR right away. Then, if an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is available, use it as soon as possible. If two people are available to help, one should begin CPR immediately while the other calls 9-1-1 and finds an AED.

Hands Only CPR is effective in saving lives during cardiac arrest. Hands-Only CPR has just two simple steps. If you see a teen or adult suddenly collapse, (1) Call 9-1-1; and (2) Push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of the disco song “Stayin’ Alive” (100 beats per minute) until help arrives.

To learn more about CPR, visit


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