Heart Health and Snow Removal

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By Carol Barrett Bellante, Middlesex County Freeholder
Chairperson, Committee of Public Health and Education

I am sure that everyone has already had their fair share of snow this winter– I know I have, it seems like we are faced with a new storm every other day.  When those storms leave us with huge accumulations, it is important that we take the right precautions when removing snow.

Cleaning up from these storms can be very strenuous and should not be taken lightly.  Aside from the obvious dangers of muscle strains or falls, cold weather and the exertion from shoveling can place extra strain on your heart.

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You should always consider your overall state of health and the possible risk factors you may face when deciding to shovel snow.  A smart choice for heart health is to talk to your doctor before you shovel, especially if you have an existing health condition or a family history of heart trouble.  If your doctor advises you not to, or if you feel that you cannot shovel the snow yourself, you should consider hiring someone to do the job for you.

If you are going to shovel, there are some important recommendations that you should follow.  First, you should dress in several layers of clothing to keep warm, try to avoid caffeine and nicotine before you start and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

When you do begin, shovel slowly and remember to bend at the knees and tighten your stomach muscles as you lift the snow.  Keep in mind that plastic shovels are typically lighter than metal shovels and can be used to help lighten the burden when lifting snow.

If you do feel any discomfort while shoveling, you should stop immediately and seek medical attention.  According to the American Heart Association, heart attack warning signs include: discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back, pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach and shortness of breath. Some other signs may include: breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

To help raise awareness about heart health February has been named American Heart Month.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States with someone having a heart attack every 34 seconds.

Everyone should be aware of heart disease and how to prevent it. You should talk to your doctor about a healthy lifestyle, and be aware of your own medical history and your family history of heart disease. The Middlesex County Public Health Department Health Education Division can provide FREE programs about heart health to schools, faith-based organizations, employers and staff, health professionals and other community groups.  Call 1-732-745-8860 to schedule an education session.

For additional information about winter weather protection visit the following websites:

For additional information about heart disease visit the following websites:


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