Man shovelling snow from driveway

Shovel smart this winter

6 tips to reduce your heart attack risk in cold weather

This winter, leaving the snow on the ground could save your life.

Shovelling snow in extreme cold increases your risk of heart attack. In fact mortality rates are 10 per cent higher during winter than in warmer months. The risk is even greater if you’re inactive or living with heart disease.

Scooping heavy, wet snow raises your heart rate quickly. Add in cold temperatures that raise blood pressure and increase the likelihood of developing blood clots, and it can be deadly. But taking the right precautions can be life saving.

Follow these winter safety tips to protect your heart:

Warm up. Shovelling snow is a demanding physical activity. It’s a good idea to warm up first, as you would before any intense sport. Take a short walk to get the blood flowing before you pick up the shovel.

Take a breather. Don’t push yourself to get the driveway clear in a hurry. Take frequent breaks and sip water to stay hydrated. If you’re tired, finish the job later.

Work first, eat later. After a large meal, your body is already working hard to digest food. Stepping out to clear the driveway soon after can put extra strain on your heart.

Plan ahead. Watch your local forecast for extreme cold weather alerts. Plan enough time for snow shovelling, running errands and walking outdoors.

Get help with the heavy lifting. Ask family members or friends, or find out if your community offers help with snow removal.

Leave the car at home. As much as you can, avoid driving in bad weather when your car can get stuck. Pushing a car out of a snowbank can overwork your heart. If you’ve had a heart attack, it’s recommended to wait four to six weeks before getting behind the wheel, as fatigue, weakness and medications can slow reaction time.

IMPORTANT: Stop activity if you experience sudden shortness of breath, discomfort in the chest, lightheadedness, nausea, dizziness, or severe headache and immediately seek medical attention.

We welcome your comments on our posts, but ask that you refrain from using profanity and remain courteous and respectful of others' opinions. The Heart and Stroke Foundation reserves the right to remove any comments that are not in compliance with this policy.

Leave a Reply