Heart Health & Snow Shoveling

Waking up to snow covering your entire yard and driveway can be beautiful – but it can also be a pain. Before you grab your shovel and get to work on digging out your driveway, there are a few things you should consider. Did you know that after shoveling heavy amounts of snow, you have a heightened risk of having a heart attack?

Snow shoveling can be considered strenuous exercise, and it can put a lot of strain on your heart. If you are not used to exercising and are not physically fit, it can predispose you to a heart attack.

If you have more than one medical condition, such as coronary artery disease, hypertension or if you are overweight, you may want to consider having someone else shovel for you, as it is not worth the risk to your heart.

If you cannot find someone to help you when it comes to snow shoveling, try following these tips to keep yourself safe:

  1. Don’t push yourself too hard. It’s okay to take breaks. If you start to feel tired, take a rest and complete the job in sections.
  2. Stay warm by dressing appropriately. Bundle up in appropriate winter gear (hat, gloves, boots, etc.) to keep yourself warm.
  3. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before you shovel. When you take breaks, continue to drink water, and don’t forget to drink more water when you are finished.
  4. Pay attention to how you feel both before and after shoveling. If you are feeling tired or are in pain, stop and take break. Evaluate how you are feeling before continuing to shovel.

If you are experiencing any heart attack warning signs, stop shoveling and take action. Here is a list of common heart attack warning signs after shoveling:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. This feeling often comes along with chest discomfort, but it can occur beforehand.
  • Other signs can include breaking out in a cold sweat or feeling weak, nauseous or lightheaded. As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptoms are chest pain or discomfort, but women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea (vomiting) and back or jaw pain.
  • Call 9-1-1 immediately if you are experiencing these symptoms. You must act quickly to prevent disability or death.

If you or someone you are with has chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the other signs, don’t wait longer than five minutes before calling 9-1-1 for help.

Calling 9-1-1 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment. Emergency medical personnel can begin treatment before you even get to the hospital, and they have the equipment and training to get your heart beating again if it happens to stop.

Remember, the chances of surviving a heart attack are greater when emergency treatment begins quickly.


For additional heart disease resources, please visit Heart Disease Resources | Health and Human Services North Dakota.