Geriatrician, Hospitalist, Patient Advocate, Healthcare Educator

Shoveling Snow and Your Health

Photo by Anna Hill

Shoveling snow can stress your heart similar to a treadmill stress test. Shoveling snow is a vigorous physical activity and can increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and your body’s oxygen requirements. Cold temperatures may increase blood pressure while also constricting the coronary arteries. Those factors, along with the higher heart rate from the extra physical effort, may increase the risk for acute cardiac events.

Researchers looked at hospital admissions and deaths due to heart attack the day after it snowed in Canada during the years 1981 to 2014. This included more than 128,000 hospital admissions and more than 68,000 deaths due to heart attack. Here’s what they found:

  • compared to no snowfall, heavy snow(about 7-8 inches) was associated with 16% higher odds of men being admitted to the hospital with a heart attack, and a 34% increase in the chance of men dying from a heart attack
  • There was no association observed between snowfall and heart attack among women.

Well, if it snows, it snows….but be aware of the dangers, be prepared, and take it easy, including taking short breaks, or letting family members or neighbors help you out.