The dangers of shoveling snow

WABASH VALLEY, Ind. (WTHI) – Those across the WabashValley are digging their way out of the latest snowfall.

You may want to think twice before picking up a shovel.

“When I get to feeling it in the chest, I know when to stop. It gets to you,” said Charles Shepherd.

Health officials are warning without proper precautions shoveling snow can send you to the emergency room.

“It is strenuous. I look at it as I don’t have to go to the gym today,” Rudy Medsker said.

Rudy might be onto something – doctors say shoveling snow can be more strenuous than a typical workout.

“You can compare it to someone exercising on the treadmill full throttle. It is more strenuous that that,” Dr. Keshava Reddy, M.D. Regional Hospital.

Combined with the bitter cold this winter task can be dangerous, especially to those with pre-existing heart conditions.

“It causes the increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and it increases the oxygen conjunction to the heart, and the exposure to the cold air causes the constriction of the blood vessels,” said Reddy.

It’s a heavy burden with saturated snow weighing 20lbs. per cubic foot. Knowing your limits can prevent a heart attack.

“The pressure, and the tightness, sometimes they attribute the symptoms to the exercise and don’t realize they are having a heart attack,” Reddy said.

If you want to make sure you’re not overdoing it while shoveling you can download a free app that will monitor your heart rate by simply putting your finger over the camera lens.

We did an experiment with an app; Patsy Kelly’s heart rate at rest is 88, after shoveling for just 5 minutes it’s at 170.

“Most of the heart attacks we get in the morning because the blood has high clotting problems in the morning,” said Reddy.

Doctors also suggest using the buddy system just like Charles and Rudy did today.

“When I can’t feel my fingers I know its time to take a break,” said Medsker.

Doctors also recommend not smoking, eating a heavy meal, or drinking coffee before shoveling as it increases your blood pressure.

“You feel it, and you know its time to back off and come back and do it again later,” said Shepherd.

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