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Keep your heart safe while shoveling snow

Clearing snow from sidewalks and driveways is an important safety precaution to help prevent falls on slick surfaces. But shoveling can also pose a safety hazard to your heart, and may even put you at increased risk of a heart attack. In fact, some doctors recommend that people with coronary artery disease avoid the strenuous activity of shoveling snow altogether. That’s because cold weather causes your arteries to constrict, which in turn causes a rise in your blood pressure.

man shoveling snow If you have or suspect you have coronary artery disease, it’s best to have someone else shovel your driveway. If your heart is healthy, you should still take some safety precautions to ensure it stays that way. Before you pick up that shovel, take note of these safety tips — your heart will thank you.

Warm up. Spend a few minutes indoors warming up your muscles with gentle exercise, such as swinging your arms while walking in place.

Wait to eat. Having a small snack is fine, but save the big meal for after you’re done shoveling. A heavy meal can put extra stress on your heart.

Take it slow. Shoveling isn’t a sprint. Go slow to avoid overexerting or slipping and hurting yourself. Take frequent breaks indoors and warm up before you go back out again.

Lessen your load. Shovel only small amounts at a time, especially if the snow is heavy and wet.

Be mindful of your technique. Try pushing snow aside instead of lifting. If you must lift, bend at your knees and not your waist.

Wear proper gear. Dress in layers to keep warm. Put on a hat. And make sure you wear boots with good traction that cover your entire foot.

Listen to your body. If you begin to feel dizzy or lightheaded, take a break. If you suspect you’re having a heart attack, call 911.

Check with your doctor before shoveling if you have a heart or other health condition. When in doubt, don’t risk your health to shovel the driveway. Hire a plowing service, a neighbor or high school student to do the job for you.