Snow Shoveling 101: How Not to Die

Doctors: Push rather than lift the snow, avoid alcohol
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2014 9:39 AM CST
Updated Nov 20, 2014 9:44 AM CST
Snow Shoveling 101: How Not to Die
Sue Radka helps shovel out a friends driveway on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in Lancaster, N.Y.   (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Before you break out the snow shovel this season, doctors say there are a couple of things to keep in mind lest clearing your walk turn deadly. At least two people died from heart problems while shoveling snow this week in Buffalo and about 100 Americans meet the same fate each year, the BBC reports, as a boosted heart rate and artery-constricting cold air make "a perfect storm for a heart attack," a doctor explains. If you're over 55 or "habitually sedentary," he says you shouldn't pick up a shovel at all. Shoveling snow is also risky for smokers and people with coronary disease. But if you have to shovel, remember to breathe during the exercise. Push the snow, don't lift it, and avoid the 6am to 10am window if possible as hormone levels make people particularly prone to heart attacks at that time.

Dress warmly and take regular breaks inside, the doctor advises. The American Heart Association chimes in with a few additional tips: Skip big meals right before or after shoveling, as a heavy meal can tax the heart. And in terms of your shovel, use a smaller one; the less snow you move at once, the safer you'll be. And if you're looking to warm up, avoid alcohol, a doctor tells ABC News. "It puts the heart at more risk." The advice, which also applies to those who use snow blowers, will come in handy if you're planning to help out the Buffalo Bills. (Click for more shoveling tips.)

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