Snow Shoveling Heart Attacks

Snow Shoveling Heart Attacks

Snow shoveling heart attacks happen in young and old, fat and skinny. Hear why this sudden cardiac arrest occurs, and how to avoid it.

Snow shoveling causes a rapid increase in heart rate, beyond the safe range of healthy people, let alone the average couch potato. Coupled with constricted blood vessels due to cold weather, it’s a recipe for a heart attack.

Find out about “heart attack snow.” In this podcast, Dan Clark also describes why heart attacks happen so often, and how to avoid them on the job, or at home.


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Dan Clark: Snow shoveling is hard on the ticker! Moving the white stuff can raise heart rates above recommended limits after only a couple of minutes of digging. Let’s dig into snow shoveling heart attacks.

Hi there, I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief. This is where we talk about health and safety hazards in today’s demanding industrial and construction worksites.

Here’s a little fact: heart attacks increase when there’s a heavy snowfall and low air pressure. People go out and shovel snow, which jumps their heart rate. If you shovel snow at work, or at home, listen. I have a pile of snow shoveling tips.

Be especially careful when shoveling heart attack snow—the wet stuff—which is much heavier than the dry, fluffy snow.

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense—the “movie heart attack”— where nobody doubts what’s happening. But most heart attacks start slowly with mild pain or discomfort. Often, people affected aren’t even sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help. So, listen to your body.


• It places a sudden demand on the heart. Many people who shovel snow don’t get a lot of exercise, let’s face it. So, when they try to suddenly move hundreds of pounds of snow, it causes real heart strain.

• Cold air causes blood vessels to constrict.

• Arm work is more taxing on the heart than legwork.

• Breath-holding stresses the heart.

• Continued shoveling can cause tendinitis and herniated discs in the spinal cord.


• Even young, healthy men have heart rates jump to 170 beats per minute, shooting blood pressure way up.

• People with a history of heart disease.

• People with high blood pressure.

• Smokers.

• Couch potatoes.


• If you have heart problems, talk with your doctor. In some cases, a snowblower might be a safer option.

• Warm your muscles by walking before you begin.

• Avoid caffeine and nicotine, because they can increase the heart rate.

• Stay hydrated.

• Wear layers. Remove top layers when you get hot.

• Wear the right shoes.

• Choose a smaller, lighter shovel. Plastic, of course, is lighter than metal.

• Pace yourself.

• Push the snow, don’t lift it.

• Switch hands periodically and alternate the side which are pushing the snow.

• When possible, avoid large shoveling jobs by clearing snow several times during the day.

And here’s a final tip for workers on a jobsite moving snow. If you’re on a roof wear a safety harness. Also, the total weight of the snow workers and equipment on the roof should, at all times, be compared to the load limit for the roof. Beware of roof collapses.

That’s it for this episode on Snow Shoveling Heart Attacks. Come back for more ways to stay safety compliant in today’s ever-changing landscape of safety requirements. I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief, a service of Creative Safety Supply.


OSHA offers safety info on snow hazards and winter hazards.

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