Some activities such as snow shoveling, walking through heavy wet snow or in a snow drift, downhill and cross country skiing, snow-boarding, can strain the heart enough to cause a heart attack. Snow shoveling can be more strenuous than exercising full throttle on a treadmill. While this may not be a problem if an individual is healthy and fit, it can be dangerous if not.
Shoveling, even pushing a heavy snow blower, can cause sudden increase in blood pressure and heart rate, and the cold air can cause constriction of the blood vessel and decrease oxygen to the heart. All these work in concert to increase the work of the heart and trigger a potentially fatal heart attack.
Individuals who are at risk of a heart attack during cold outdoor activities include:
- Those with a prior heart attack
- Those with known heart disease
- Those with high blood pressure or high cholesterol
- Those who lead a sedentary lifestyle
- Individuals who are overweight and perform little to no exercise in their normal routine.
A recent case in Pennsylvania had a pregnant teen collapse after shoveling snow and was pronounced dead. The storms produced record snow and tides which resulted in extreme water damage and storm damage to homes, but everyone must be very careful when performing any strenuous task.