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Shoveling snow? U of M cardiologist offers tips on how to stay heart healthy

shoveling snow
Posted at 4:17 PM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-05 16:27:32-05

(WXMI) — The first major snowfall of the season has arrived, which means everyone will soon be breaking out their shovels and clearing away piles of snow from their sidewalks and driveways.

But shoveling snow comes with potential health risks, namely heart attacks.

Head of Preventive Cardiology Dr. John Bisognano, M.D., with the University of Michigan says it is especially risky if people shovel snow without adequate exercise.

“Many people haven’t done a lot of exercise for the rest of the year,” Dr. Bisognano explains, “and shoveling snow is not only a heavy exercise but an exercise that really stresses the entire cardiovascular system.”

He says this means underlying heart problems often come to light for the first time when shoveling snow, adding it’s important to check into an emergency room if experiencing shortness of breath or sudden chest pain.

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“Don’t just sit at home with a little chest pressure,” says Dr. Bisognano. “That’s the time to seek medical attention and to seek it quickly so that we can give you the therapies, the good medications, the good procedures, that can solve your short-term problem as well as the therapies in the long term like treating high BP, cholesterol, stopping smoking; that can do so much to improve your CV health in the long term.”

He says even those who are accustomed to shoveling snow year after year should be mindful of their health.

“It’s important to remember that shoveling snow provides an unusual stress on your body because it’s cold,” says Dr. Bisognano. “You’re doing physical activity that starts abruptly and it may be something you haven’t done for months in the past.”

Before you head out to start shoveling snow, Dr. Bisognano advises asking yourself how much exercise you’ve gotten this past year and how you feel right now. He says it’s okay to take up the shovel if you’ve been physically active and haven’t felt any chest pains or shortness of breath.

When you do start shoveling, Dr. Bisognano cautions to take it slow at first and take breaks if you need it.

WEATHER: Heavy snow and strong winds continue

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