Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Snow Shoveling Safety

This is not the post I intended to write today.

I spent last night sitting in the Emergency Room. My parents spent the day with my sister walking around a nature reserve. They had a good day. On the way home, my Dad started feeling dizzy and nauseous. They immediately went to the ER. My Dad has been seeing a cardiologist since May due to shortness of breath and water retention. The doctor has been monitoring his heart and modifying medications. There is a possibility he may need a pacemaker down the road.

The ER waiting room was packed. My father waited 2 1/2 hours before he was seen by a doctor. The very first question the doctor asked was "Have you been shoveling snow?" My father will turn 80 in September. My sister and her husband live less than a mile from my parents. They shovel my parent's sidewalks each snowstorm without fail. There is no need for him to pick up a shovel but he does it anyway. Stubborn. He did not shovel a lot but a little is too much. This winter Pennsylvania had record breaking snowfall.

The ER doctor explained that snow shoveling put too much strain on the heart. It weakens the heart and prevents it from functioning properly. My Dad had water in his lungs which caused the dizziness and nausea. He was kept overnight for observation. He is feeling much better and will come home today.

From the AARP.Org:

Researchers have reported an increase in fatal heart attacks among snow shovelers after heavy snowfalls, according to Julie Garden-Robinson, assistant professor in the Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences Department at North Dakota State University.

Like weight lifting, which also requires you to exert a lot of energy without much movement, "snow shoveling may cause a quick increase in heart rate and blood pressure," says Garden-Robinson. One study found that after only two minutes of shoveling, the heart rates of physically inactive men rose higher than those normally recommended during aerobic exercise.

Of course, not everyone who shovels snow is at risk for having a heart attack. But people who smoke or have a history of heart trouble, pain, back problems, or other ongoing health concerns need to be really careful, says Nicholas DiNubile, MD, a spokesman for the American Academy Of Orthopaedic Surgeons and medical consultant for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Here are some other tips to make shoveling easier and safer:

Get a good shovel. Look for a lighter-weight shovel that suits your size. A smaller shovel will allow you to scoop up less snow at a time and avoid getting hurt. DeNubile says shovels with a bend in them, as opposed to the straight, broomstick-type style, are better for your lower back.

Pace yourself. Start shoveling soon after newly fallen snow since it is lighter than wet, heavily packed snow, and take small breaks (shovel an inch or two, rest, and repeat). Start out slowly to avoid putting too much stress on your heart all at once.

Push, rather than lift. When you can, try pushing the snow away from you, rather than lifting it, to avoid straining or twisting your back. Look for a shovel with a blade that makes it easier to push snow.

Use your legs. If you must lift snow, fill your shovel no more than half full. Bend your knees and lift with your legs, rather than your back. Keep your back straight. Avoid throwing snow over your shoulder or to the side, which causes your back to twist and can injure your shoulders.

Watch for ice. Look out for ice under the snow or on the ground that can cause you to slip and fall. Black ice, which looks like water but is actually thin ice, can be especially dangerous.

Ask for help. Don't be afraid to ask someone to help you if it's a huge job, says deNubile. "Clean some of it yourself but don't feel like you have to do it all."

Listen to your body. If you feel tightness in your chest or have any pain, stop right away and call your doctor. If you're sore after shoveling, take a hot bath, get a massage, or take a pain reliever, says DiNubile. If you still don't feel well, see your doctor.

Tuesday Tip: Snow Shoveling Safety


Rick said...

I'm glad your Dad is feeling better and it was no more than a scare.

Michele said...

Thanks Rick.

SueC said...

Hope all your snow melts soon! I find snow becomes a real pain after a few days. We are snow free at the moment but I think more is forcast!

Shang Lee said...

I'm glad we don't have snow here... it's summer all year round, although it has been getting a bit hotter these days... I do miss being able to use the excuse "snowed in". ;)

Michele said...

SueC: This winter has been crazy! There is an eight foot snow wall at the end of our lot. I predict seeing grass again sometime in April. :)

ShangLee: Summer all year long...my husband would love the warm weather. I like the seasons in PA especially the Autumn. Last week, school was cancelled three days and most companies were closed two days. We had to hire a front end loader to clear the snow at our house.

Rick said...

I remember on winter when I was younger when we seemed to have a blizzard every weekend. Snow throwers weren't so common then, so I had to shovel it all. At one point, the snow banks were so high I raan out of places to throw the snow. I couldn't throw it any higher!

Michele said...

Rick: The first winter (1996) we were in our house...we used shovels. Of course, there was a blizzard and we were snowed in for two days. My husband and I spent days clearing our lot. The following season, my husband bought a snow thrower and it did not snow enough to use it.