Tips on how to shovel 'heart attack snow' safely

Posted at 2:16 PM, Jan 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-23 06:54:10-05

With as much as two feet of snow on the way this weekend, it’s tempting to wait until the flakes stop falling to start shoveling.

Don’t do it, says Martin Tirado, the executive director of the Snow and Ice Management Association, the trade association representing snow management professionals.

“Start shoveling when it’s two or three inches,” Tirado said. “It breaks it up into pieces.”

This is especially important during this blizzard, which is expected to drop heavy snow on the Baltimore area.

“It’s really the water content in the snow that makes it heavy,” Tirado said. “It’s hard on equipment, much less people.”

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He advises people to try to push the snow, vs. lifting it, and use your knees when you can, so you don’t stress your back.    

Also, even though it’s cold out, you can still get dehydrated quickly, as you can with any form of exercise. Drink lots of water and don’t overdo it on the caffeinated beverages, Tirado said.

Stretching before shoveling helps, too.

According to the American Heart Association, shoveling snow will probably not lead to any health problems for most people.

But the combination of colder temperatures and physical exertion means your heart is working hard, so the AHA has the following tips for people who plan to be out shoveling snow.

  • Take frequent rest breaks.
  • Don’t eat a heavy meal prior or soon after shoveling.
  • Use a small shovel or consider a snow thrower.
  • Don’t drink alcoholic beverages before or immediately after shoveling. Alcohol can make you feel warmer than you actually are.
  • To prevent hypothermia, dress in layers of warm clothing and wear a hat.
  • Know the heart attack signs: Chest discomfort; discomfort in areas including arms, back, neck, jaw and stomach; shortness of breath; breaking out in a cold sweat; nausea; lightheadedness. Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, have it checked out.

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