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Heart Health

Protect your heart when shoveling snow

February 28, 2020
  • By Harvard Health Publishing Staff, Harvard Health

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Harvard Health Publishing Staff, Harvard Health

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February 10, 2012

Thank you.

Glen Salem
January 24, 2012

I work at the maintenance department of a large elderly complex in CT. We do the snow removal for the whole complex. When I started we had 8 or 10 people working 22 acres of sidewalks and parking areas. With cutbacks, this storm, we had 2 people shoveling with a third person arriving 2 and a half hours later. We shoveled for a little over 8 hours. The man I worked with from the beginning of the snow storm is 65 years old. I am 58 and the fellow that came after is 30. My 2 questions are. How long or how much time is too much time for us to be shoveling snow. Years ago we would finish this 9 inch snow fall in one 8 hour day. Since we only had 3 shoveling snow it took two full days of work. I did not go in the second day because I couldn’t close my left hand and strong leg cramps. My second question is, do you know of any job openings for a 58 year old maintenance man after I complain. Thank you for a great article.

Paulita Bochat
January 11, 2012

I appreciate your post, it is interesting and compelling. I have found my way here through Google, I shall get back once more 🙂

January 8, 2012

Well the best way to do that is get a nice truck, some winter tires and a plow no need for that back strain 🙂

December 29, 2011

Many Americans are at that stage where they haven’t exercised in months or even years. I agree to the fact that if you aren’t healthy and fit it can be potentially life threatening shoveling a big driveway. That is why snow blowers are invented because we have to accommodate for these people, especially elderly citizens. According to the US Census Bureau, the number of elderly people will increase dramatically, by doubling what it is now by 2050. I say a snowblower is a lot easier, a lot less strain on your muscles and back than a shovel.

December 9, 2011

This could possibly pertains to lack of training and knowledge among the women in under developed countries. I really like the data on shoveling snow, I didn’t know that this could give you heart attack. Particularly if you are not very fit, I live in England and we get alot of snow. I usually should shovel it away and I am not very fit so I will probably be very cautious when I’m doing this. Thank so much for this wonderful information.

October 5, 2011

Well the winter is almost here now. Last year it was not that much of snow (luckily) but you never know what happens this time.
For those who are left handed, must take care of the left shoulder pain this season.

Jevaughn Brown
September 21, 2011

It’s articles like this that make me say I’m never migrating away from my beautiful little *tropical* country of Jamaica to anywhere north of Georgia – Or if I do, I’m definitely moving BACK when I get up in years. 🙂 In all seriousness this article brings up a fact that I can’t recall seeing discussed before. If hospital ERs actually gear up with certainty for more heart attack cases after blizzards, it’s very important that awareness is raised about this health issue with winter closing in again now. And most people, let alone older persons, are sedentary couch athletes these days so a lot of people are in the risk group. I’m going to share this for those of my friends and family not living in such sunny climes as mine.

Jevaughn Brown
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September 5, 2011

I found that cracking back back on my own with the help of a swiss exercise ball really helped. Here is where I found the stretches that seemed to help me: I still do them every day and it’s really helped my back start to feel better instead of constantly aching all the time.

Gale J Wozinski RN
February 14, 2012

While I wouldn’t condone “cracking your back” as a fix for back pain, the exercise ball can be good for those that want to stretch and strengthen their back.

Mike Sutherland
July 30, 2011

After my wife had heart surgery some years ago she started to develop sciatica pain. We think it was triggered by some of the drugs she was on and from being laid up in bed for so long. And thank goodness we don’t have to shovel snow out here in california! Hahaha
I have been helping my wife through her massive sciatica pain for years now. I currently do physical therapy with other who suffer also.
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MP Sidhu
March 28, 2011

very informative article.I am surely going to pass on this knowledge to my son and son-in-law who do a lot of shoveling in winters.

March 22, 2011

The elderly are much more exposed to heart attacks resulting from such activity, but in many cases are not aware of it. Great article, thank you for sharing with us.

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March 1, 2011

Thank you very much for sharing such an informative thought! I was not aware of this fact before I went through your post.

ken dodd
March 1, 2011

I love the information on shoveling snow, I did not know that this could give you heart attack. Especially if you are not very fit, I live in England and we get alot of snow. I normally have to shovel it away and I am not very fit so I will be very careful when I am doing this. Thank so much for this wonderful information.

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Bob Ruiz
February 10, 2011

BAH-HUMBUG! I hate snow and anything associated with it! ie: shovels, cold weather, ice, cloudy-nasty-ugly days, etc.
Give me the Bahamas any day!

P.J. Skerrett
February 10, 2011

Bob — I hear you. But then there’s the hush of a cross-country ski trail on a crisp blue day, sledding with kids, a pack of birds at the feeder, a quiet fire in the fireplace. They make up for some of the hassle. Still, if my company said I could do my job from the Bahamas, I’d be there in a second. Did someone mention hurricanes?

Pat Skerrett
February 2, 2011

Shoveling snow can bring some pain at your back and it’s really exhausting. To avoid this i must follow your tips. This article is very informative, thanks for sharing.

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Carolyn Thomas
January 19, 2011

“Snow shoveling is a known trigger for heart attacks.”

Well, yes and no. It may well be true for people who already have a history of cardiovascular disease, according to the American Journal of Cardiology paper that you quote (August 15, 2010): “These findings suggest that in typically sedentary individuals with cardiac risk factors or histories of coronary artery disease, snow shoveling may trigger ST elevation myocardial infarction and therefore should be avoided”

But for the average person with no history of heart disease, as Dr. Sharonne Hayes of Mayo Clinic wrote for The National Coalition For Women With Heart Disease: “All heart attack patients have had an underlying condition that caused the attack. Most heart attacks in fact are 20-30 years in the making. But about half of all heart attack survivors, however, mistakenly blame the attack on one specific event — such as extreme exertion.” More on this at “Can Exercise Trigger A Heart Attack?” at HEART SISTERS –

It might also be helpful to clarify here that although “the so-called classic signs of a heart attack are a squeezing pain in the chest”, the reality is that up to 40% of heart attack survivors report NO chest symptoms at all. Women in particular may report very vague MI symptoms compared to men’s stereotypical “Hollywood Heart Attack”.

P.J. Skerrett
January 20, 2011

Carolyn — Good points. Heart attacks, like strokes, sometimes seem to come out of the blue, but are usually the end result of years-long damage to the arteries. You are also right that there’s often more to a heart attack than chest pain. That’s why I included a link to our article on chest pain. (Can’t fit everything into a 500-word post!)

Ben Halonen
January 17, 2011

P.J.: Elderly people (ages 60-70’s) use “yooper scoops” in Northern Michigan for decades. These people shovel snow almost daily as they get 200-300″ of snow every winter. These people never get sore or hurt. Why, because they use these unique shovels called yooper scoopers. You would find these people and snow shovels fancinating.

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