Did you know that the intense exertion of shoveling snow, combined with the freezing cold, can make your heart rate and blood pressure soar? And people often shovel first thing in the morning, when heart attacks are more likely. Add in the heavy lifting and you have a risk of pulled muscles and back injuries. Here’s how to protect yourself while clearing off your steps and driveways:
• Prepare wisely. Dress in layers, and wear boots with slip-resistant soles. Use a shovel with an S-shaped handle, which causes less flexing of the spine. But consider using a snow thrower if you have back problems.
• Use good timing and technique. Try to shovel promptly, when the snow is still light and powdery. Hold the shovel close to your body and push rather than lift the snow whenever possible. If you must lift, use your legs to raise and lower your upper body and the shovel, keeping your back straight and feet apart.
• Watch for warning signs. If you feel pressure or pain in your chest, or discomfort spreading to your shoulders, neck, jaw, arms, or back, call for an ambulance immediately, chew and swallow an aspirin, and lie down. You could be having a heart attack. If you have a history of heart problems, the American College of Emergency Physicians advises against shoveling.