WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Old man winter is gearing up to deliver the first substantial snowfall to our area.
Weather forecasters are calling for a possible snowfall of up to a foot or more in some areas of the Hudson Valley. While this usually means lots of winter fun and outdoor activities for the kids and winter sports enthusiasts, unfortunately, every year hundreds of people injure their backs, or even worse, suffer heart attacks, from shoveling snow.
Typical winter conditions (a little more than an inch of snowfall and temperatures that dip below 20 degrees) cause death rates from heart attacks to triple among men 35 to 49 years old.
“While the temperature is not going to be extreme, shoveling snow can still be very dangerous for many people, particularly if the right precautions aren't taken,” says Dr. Ivan Miller, medical director of the Emergency Department at Westchester Medical Center. “This particular storm will be producing a substantial amount of heavy wet snow in some areas which makes shoveling difficult and potentially dangerous.”
During the winter months snow removal may be a necessity, but it must also be considered a physical activity that should be carefully undertaken.
There are some tips that can help alleviate this hassle and keep you, your back and your heart safe so that you can enjoy the winter wonderland around you.
- If you've ever had a heart attack, if you have heart disease or high blood pressure, you probably don't want to do the shoveling yourself. Like starting a new exercise program, at the very least, you should consult your doctor before attempting it.
- Do not work to the point of exhaustion. If you become short of breath or have difficulty breathing or feel tightness or discomfort in your chest, stop immediately!
- Get a neighborhood kid to shovel your walk or dig out your car. Volunteer to do it for an elderly or infirmed neighbor or relative if you are physically able.
- Take it slow! Pace yourself. Shoveling (like lifting weights) can raise your heart rate and blood pressure dramatically. Be sure to stretch out and warm up before taking on the task.
- Avoid driving if possible, Slick and icy road surfaces can be deadly! Staying off the road allows road crews to properly clean the road surface which makes travel safer for everyone. If you must drive, use caution.
Additionally, anyone who will be spending time outdoors during this storm or, at any other time during the winter, should be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with cold related emergencies.
“If you think you may be suffering from the effects of the cold, remove yourself from the element immediately and seek medical attention if necessary,” added Miller.