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Protect your heart when shoveling snow

Men are more at risk than women but certain people with health problems have higher risk than others for a cardiac event.

BY MELVYN RUBENFIRE, M.D

ANN ARBOR. -  Dress warmly and in layers, especially if it’s below 25 degrees.

• Avoid overdressing. This can lead to overheating, another way to stress the heart during exertion.

• Shield your face and mouth with a scarf or mask. This kind of protection is essential because cold air striking the face triggers a reflex action: the cold causes a reflex constriction of the coronary arteries and an increase in blood pressure.

• Do a simple warm up like walking briskly or only shoveling small scoops of snow at first.

• If the snow is light, consider putting the shovel away and using a broom.

If the snow is heavy

• Continue shoveling only small scoops of snow so you are lifting less weight per scoop.

• Take frequent breaks to lower your heart rate.

• Readjust your clothing if you feel too hot or too cold.

• If you are feeling flushed and over-exerted, stop shoveling, cool down briefly by marching in place and then go inside.

Each of the following are indications to stop immediately

Shortness of breath, feeling weak or lightheaded, heart palpitations, or chest or arm discomfort. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish arm and chest pain from muscle strain and heart pain. Stop with any type of pain including arms, chest, neck and back. (SOURCE: University of Michigan)

Photo: University of Michigan

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