Health Check: Be careful when shoveling snow

For most people, shoveling snow may not lead to any health problems. But the American Heart Association warns that the risk of heart attack increases for some, considering the combination of colder temperatures and physical exertion. (WJAR)

For most people, shoveling snow may not lead to any health problems.

But the American Heart Association warns that the risk of heart attack increases for some, considering the combination of colder temperatures and physical exertion.

In particular, those who are sedentary or already have an existing heart condition are most at risk.

There are some tips from the Heart Association -- and this goes for all of us!

  • Take frequent rest breaks so you don't overstress your heart
  • Don't eat a heavy meal prior to, or soon after. Shoveling, as a large meal can put an extra strain on your heart
  • Know the warning signs of a heart attack, which can include chest discomfort or discomfort in other areas of your upper body, like your arms, back, neck jaw or stomach. Other symptoms are shortness of breath, nausea or lightheadedness
  • Don't drink alcohol before or after, as it increases your sensation of warmth and may cause you to underestimate the extra strain your body is under in the cold

Dr. Susan Duffy, who is the emergency department physician at Hasbro Children's Hospital, said exposed areas and areas of decreased circulation are the most prone to frostbite and can happen within minutes to hours. First signs are redness and pain. By the time your skin feels numb, turns a grayish yellow and feels unusually firm or waxy, it may be too late.

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