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Shoveling Snow May Heighten Risk Of Heart Attack

Dorathy Gass

We are in the thick of winter and many areas are currently not only experiencing lower, frigid temperatures, but also excessive amounts of snow as well. Here’s yet another reason you may want invest in a snow blower; a new study reveals that shoveling the white stuff may actually increase your chances of a heart attack.

It may not be a secret to those whose job it is in the household to shovel that snow off the driveway, but the activity is known to be quite strenuous. While it may seem like good exercise because it gets ‘you moving’; the lifting of the heavy snow offers an unequal strain when it comes to your arms (versus legs) which increases the heart rate, oxygen demand, and blood pressure. Mix that in with the cold air that is being inhaled while shoveling and this could lead to unfortunate events when it comes to one’s cardiovascular system, sometimes referred to as ‘snow-shoveler’s’ infarction.

Medical News Today reported that the new study looks closely at the connection between huge snow falls, extended periods of snow, and the chance of myocardial infarction (MI).

The study was led by Dr. Nathalie Auger, University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre in Canada where the team reviewed numbers from two databases. The research team collected over 128,000 patient admissions as well as over 68,000 MI deaths that happened in Quebec from 1981 to 2014.

They looked at the data within areas that were known for heavy snow and gathered information between the months of November and April; winter months known for snowfalls. The team also received weather information (i.e. temperatures and daily snowfall) for each area they study from Environment Canada.

In the end, the study revealed a link between heavy snowfall and a heightened chance of both fatal and nonfatal MI.

Heavy snowfall, which is about 20 cm of snow, was connected to a 16% increase when it came to hospital admittance because of an MI; it was also linked to an increase in risk (34%) to passing away from an MI, in males. Additionally, 60% of all MI-type admissions and fatalities were in males, but no adverse cardiovascular effects were found in females.

The research team also found that likelihood of death around MI heightened consistently with the successive number of days that snowfall hit. The chances increased predominantly on day closest to the snowfall period, with one-third of MIs in males happening the day after snow hit. The link on this heightened when snowfalls lasted long, (i.e. two to three days).

The team adjusted factors for cardiovascular risk, age, and other health issues. The risks still increased, despite the factors. Still, the team suggests that males over the age of 50, and who have cardiovascular disease risk or whose lifestyle is one that is sedentary, just might have the highest chances of MI if they partake in snow shoveling at large amounts.

One important factor the team wanted to point out regarding their study, was that it was an observational one. No data with gender-specific habits around shovelling snow or other behaviors that might take place right after a snowfall, was provided. The team was also not given information on how the snow shoveling was done; whether that be with a shovel (manually) or snow blower.

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