DENVILLE, NJ -- With big snow storms comes a risk of death by shoveling. Nationwide, snow shoveling is responsible for thousands of injuries and as many as 100 deaths each year, according to the National Safety Council, America’s leading nonprofit safety advocate focused on eliminating the leading causes of preventable injuries and deaths.
The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that while most people will not have a problem, shoveling snow can put some people at risk of heart attack. Sudden exertion, like moving hundreds of pounds of snow after being sedentary for several months, can put a big strain on the heart. Pushing a heavy snow blower also can cause injury. And then there is the cold factor: frigid weather can increase heart rate and blood pressure that can make blood clot more easily and constrict arteries, which decreases blood supply. The AHA says that this is true even in healthy people, and individuals over age 40 or who are relatively inactive should be particularly careful.
The National Safety Council recommends the following tips to shovel safely:
- Do not shovel after eating or while smoking.
- Take it slow and stretch out before you begin.
- Shovel only fresh, powdery snow; it's lighter.
- Push the snow rather than lifting it.
- If you do lift it, use a small shovel or only partially fill the shovel.
- Lift with your legs, not your back.
- Do not work to the point of exhaustion.
- Know the signs of a heart attack, and stop immediately and call 911 if you're experiencing any of them; every minute counts.
Don't pick up that shovel without a doctor's permission if you have a history of heart disease. A clear driveway is not worth your life.
Snow Blower Safety
In addition to possible heart strain from pushing a heavy snow blower, be safe with tips from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons:
- If the blower jams, turn it off.
- Keep your hands away from the moving parts.
- Be aware of the carbon monoxide risk of running a snow blower in an enclosed space.
- Add fuel outdoors, before starting, and never add fuel when it is running.
- Never leave it unattended when it is running.
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