Shoveling snow brings certain health risks

As residents take to their driveways and sidewalks to dig out of the heavy, icy mix that fell across the Tri-State Tuesday night, area doctors wait.

“Each snow season we run into people that were perfectly fine and then they go and shovel snow,” said Dr. Dogan Temizer, a cardiologist at Good Samaritan Hospital.

And while the bulk of doctors deal with slips and fall, bruised shoulders and aching backs, others are struck by sudden heart attacks.

“We always see a little blip in winter on snowy days,” he said.

Specifically, Temizer said a mixture of cold and unexpected exertion makes for a bad situation.

“By the time you’ve shoveled snow more than three minutes your exertion is the equivalent of walking two flights of stairs without stopping,” Temizer said. “Of course all doctors recommend anyone with cardiac or coronary disease to not shovel snow.”

Perhaps the scariest part though is the fact that a lot of those heart attacks happen to people who have no immediate history with coronary problems.

That mixture, of cold and shoveling heavy scoops of snow, can cause coronary artery spasms, the sudden narrowing or closing of arteries that carry blood to the heart, in even relatively healthy people.

Of course, this won’t happen to everyone and people still need to shovel, Temizer said.

The doctor offered some pretty simple tips to take when heading outdoors for winter cleanup.

“Break it up into small pieces. Normal exertion is good, but maximum exertion actually increases the possibility of cardiac events,” Temizer said.

Also, good advise for those shoveling, and people in general, is to pay attention to one’s body.

“I’d also emphasize if you have chest discomfort, do not just write it off. See a doctor. That’s where people get in trouble.”

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