NEW YORK — While we may be accustomed to battling frigid temperatures and the inevitable snow storms that arrive every winter, many of us are unaware of the dangers these pose to our hearts.
“When the temperature outside drops, our blood vessels narrow to prevent our bodies from losing heat. This is a natural response that can also put people with heart conditions and those involved in strenuous exercise at greater risk of having a heart attack,” says Dr. Holly Andersen, director of education and outreach at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Shoveling snow is one of the most strenuous and dangerous winter exercise activities. It can raise blood pressure, and coupled with the effects of colder temperatures, shoveling can increase heart attack risk drastically.
Dr. Andersen offers the following tips for safe shoveling and maintaining a healthy heart this winter:
- Warm up. Warm up with stretching and light activity before shoveling, exercising, or beginning more strenuous physical activities.
- Bundle up. When going out to shovel, always wear a scarf over your mouth and nose to warm the air before you breathe in, and dress in layers. Layering clothes underneath a windproof and waterproof outer shell helps maintain body heat.
- Push the shovel. It is less strenuous to push the snow rather than lifting it, and this reduces the risk of overexerting yourself.
- Take breaks. You should take frequent breaks while shoveling to give your muscles, especially your heart muscle, a chance to relax. You may also consider sharing the work with a friend to make the workload lighter and ensure that you are not alone in the event of an emergency.
- Consult a doctor. If you are over the age of 50, overweight, out of shape or have suffered a heart attack, you should consult a doctor before shoveling snow or starting any exercise routine.
For more information, patients may call (866) NYP-NEWS.
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is the nation’s largest not-for-profit, non-sectarian hospital, with 2,409 beds. The Hospital has nearly 2 million inpatient and outpatient visits in a year, including 12,797 deliveries and 195,294 visits to its emergency departments. NewYork-Presbyterian’s 6,144 affiliated physicians and 19,376 staff provide state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine at five major centers: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division. One of the most comprehensive health care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the nation’s leading medical colleges: Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. For more information, visit www.nyp.org.