Shoveling Snow: Winter Chore or Health Hazard? George Becker, M.D., Director, Emergency Department, The Valley Hospital Explains
Bergen County Health News: Shoveling Snow: Winter Chore or Health Hazard?

Winter is here in North Jersey and we all need to be prepared for the possibility of seasonable weather. The arrival of snow means that it is time to dust off our shovels and get to digging.

"We understand that shoveling snow is our winter norm, but did you know that shoveling snow can actually pose a serious cardiac health risk to some of us?" said George Becker, M.D., director, Emergency Department, The Valley Hospital.

In fact, although most people are not in danger from shoveling, the American Heart Association (AHA) still shares useful tips for anyone shoveling snow in the winter. To begin with, the AHA recommends that those who don't exercise on a regular basis, those that have a medical condition, or those that are middle age or older consult with a doctor before shoveling. The AHA also has the following general tips for staying safe while shoveling:

  • Take frequent rest or breaks during shoveling.
  • Don't eat a heavy meal prior to or soon after shoveling.
  • Use a small shovel or consider a snow thrower.
  • Don't drink alcoholic beverages before or immediately after shoveling.
  • Be aware of the dangers of hypothermia.

Learn the heart attack warning signs and listen to your body.

Some signs that an individual might be having a heart attack are pain in the chest, arm(s), back, neck, jaw or stomach. Individuals also may break out in a cold sweat, feel short of breath, nauseated, lightheaded, or uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness in the center of the chest.

"If you are concerned that you may be having a heart attack, you should not hesitate about seeking medical treatment -- every minute is crucial when experiencing a heart attack. Call 911 immediately or head directly to the closest emergency room," Dr. Becker said.

The Emergency Department at Valley, located at 223 North Van Dien Avenue in Ridgewood, New Jersey, is open 24/7, 365 days a year and is staffed with physicians who are board certified in emergency medicine.