Beware the Snow Shovel If You Have Heart Woes

Cold weather puts you at increased risk

SUNDAY, Nov. 30, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- If you have heart disease, and maybe even if you don't, do yourself a favor and have a snowplow clear your driveway when the snow starts to pile up.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), people who are out in cold weather should avoid sudden exertion because it puts an excessive strain on the heart.

Lifting a heavy shovel full of snow or even walking through deep snow is enough to put an extra strain on your heart.

People who already have heart disease often have chest pains, known as angina, during cold weather. Cold winter weather may even increase the risk of heart attack due to overexertion, according to the AHA.

That could be because the whole body has to work harder to keep you warm in winter months. If your body can't produce enough heat, you'll develop hypothermia, which can cause heart failure.

To prevent hypothermia and heart strain, wear layers of clothing and make sure to wear a hat and gloves or mittens, too. These areas, along with your feet, lose heat quickly. Don't make your heart work overtime to get more blood to them.

Also, don't drink alcohol. It may give you a feeling of warmth, but that's only because it causes the blood vessels in the skin to expand and draw heat away from the internal organs.

More information

To learn more about preventing heart disease at any time of the year, go to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: American Heart Association
Consumer News