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Heart Health

Can shoveling snow put your heart at risk?

December 6, 2017

About the Author

photo of Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School. … See Full Bio
View all posts by Robert H. Shmerling, MD


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January 9, 2018

I am originally from Chicago, so I know about shoveling snow. I heard about shoveling and heart attacks. I now live in Arizona but I have a lot of friends back home that are in the same age range as me. I will be definitely share this article with them especially since there has been so much snow and it has been so cold.

Joan Urbach
December 22, 2017

I suffered a miscarriage after shoveling snow. The fetus was the size of a pea. Doctors have told me that there was no relationship between my distress and my shoveling but I will always have my doubts. That happened over 50 years ago.
Joan Urbach

December 20, 2017

I had my vaso-spasm heart attack in 2003 at the age of 55. My cardiologist told me the to NEVER shovel snow…and I don’t!!

Murdoch Cameron
December 20, 2017

I am 77 years old . I shovel my driveway and the neighbours walk and a log sidewalk by our Lodge. I had a heart attack in 2002. I use this chore as an exercise and stop frequently when i get tired. No problem so far. (when the snow gets deep I use my snow blower – – Self propelled.)

Arthur J Siegel M.D.
December 19, 2017

Substitute “running a marathon” for shoveling snow.
A Rose is a Rose is a Rose.
Siegel AJ, Noakes TD. Can pre-race aspirin prevent sudden cardiac death during marathons? Br J Sports Med. 2017;51(22): 1579-1581.
Low-dose aspirin might also prevent sudden cardiac arrest during shoveling snow.

December 19, 2017

Shouldn’t we first determine what kind of blockage occurred if in fact any that caused the heart attack and then theorize what possibly and reasonably may have occurred. eg. was it an irregular heart rhythm that caused the heart attack, was the artery already blocked, was a blood clot the cause?

David Evanoff
December 18, 2017

I remember while living outside Buffalo, New York in 1960 the adults discussing reports of just such “recent” finding: that men have heart attacks shoveling snow, but women don’t—no snow blowers then.

December 18, 2017

I love shoveling snow here in northern Michigan. It has become easier since I started strength and cardio training earlier this year in order not to gain weight after quitting smoking. I no longer consider shoveling snow an adequate substitute for an hour-long strength-training or cardio session — unless shoveling needs to be done multiple times on a given day and the temperature is high enough to make for quite heavy loads. If I shovel 8 inches of fluffy powder, I’m going to the gym, too. I eat a plant-based diet that also includes fish and lean animal protein. There are simply too many lifestyle variables to draw the conclusion that shoveling snow kills people.

Robert Guthrie
December 19, 2017

Shoveling snow may be part mental. If someone approaches shoveling snow as an exercise perhaps it would present less of a strain. But if one goes at it with an attitude of just wanting to get it out of the way and be done with it, it may create subconsciously a greater strain on the cardiovascular system. Shoveling snow should be a fun thing and something to look forward to as a sense of achievement. Otherwise that added strain may become present. It’s like trying too hard for any affair, even taking a test. You try too hard to do well and the mind gets tied up and can’t think. But if you take the test with a light-heart approach the mind remains clear and all the answers come to light.

Barbara Ahlrichs (do not print last name)
December 18, 2017

I am a woman who is moderately active. Garden, mow grass, rake leaves, shovel a 40′ driveway, do some routine exercises and walking. The shoveling is a bit taxing if it is deeper than 8 inches or if it is wet and heavy. I have decided that at 78 years of age, I should hire the job out.

Will S.
December 18, 2017

Also, shoveling in small chunks is what I do for this very reason. It might take me longer but I think it’s better to pace myself then to hurry up and get it done.

Robert Guthrie
December 18, 2017

It may be that shoveling snow tends to cause one to employ a greater effort per shovel than in most other physical endeavors. Perhaps administering less effort at a time along with the listening to the body during any physical effort may eliminate the rate of heart attacks. It’s just doing too much at one time when moving snow exerts such a greater strain on the heart. The idea is to get the snow cleared but doing so a little at at a time.

Allene Swienckowski
December 18, 2017

“It’s worth noting that this study did not ask these patients whether they actually shoveled snow. So, it’s possible that the connection between snowfall and heart trouble has nothing to do with shoveling snow. ” The foregoing, correct me if I’m wrong, is a circular explanation about why men and possibly women die of heart attacks due to shoveling snow. As a resident of the NE, shoveling snow is my winter sport. The question should be: if more men die from heart attacks after snows of 8″ or more, why? Especially if the ‘study’ never included the salient factor that the patient had actually shoveled snow prior to his heart attack event.

Thomas Braun RPh
December 18, 2017

Shoveling Snow is just one of many triggers that result in a Cardio event. We have to focus on the imbalance between 3-Omega and 6-Omega in the american diet along with identifying inflammatory responses that generate the Cardio events.
When will we recognize the deficiencies in the American diet that drive the #1 cause of premature death in the American population.

December 18, 2017

Heavy snow blowers used by residents for clearing snow from home driveways & sidewalks are usually self propelled and do not require much effort to use them.

Kerry Forbes
December 19, 2017

Sounds like you must not be very old.
I have a big snow blower and I am old, it is Very difficult to use

L Schelin
December 18, 2017

My first cousin who lived in a suburb of Chicago and after shoveling his driveway, which was less than 100′, rested by leaning against the back of his car in his garage with the garage door open. Suddenly died of a heart attack. That was five years ago. He was 68 years old.

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