University of Michigan cardiologist warns of shoveling dangers as snow storms return

Risk of heart attacks rises while shoveling

A man finishes shoveling his walkway after a winter storm dumped about a foot of snow, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021, in Derry, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) (Charles Krupa, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ANN ARBOR – After a New Year’s Day winter storm that coated much of Southeast Michigan with several inches of snow, residents reached for their shovels to clear driveways, sidewalks and steps.

But for those who have underlying heart conditions, a brief round of shoveling can have severe consequences, said John Bisognano, head of preventive cardiology at the University of Michigan Health Frankel Cardiovascular Center.

In addition to the sudden strain shoveling puts on the heart, being outside in the cold also stresses the entire cardiovascular system, said Bisognano.

“If you have the abrupt onset of chest pain or chest pressure or severe shortness of breath that’s the time to go to the emergency room because sometimes shoveling snow brings out the underlying cardiovascular diseases people have and may be the first time they notice that their exercise capacity is not what it used to be the year prior,” he said.

Read: When snow shoveling becomes dangerous: What you need to know

He added that you shouldn’t sit at home even with the slightest amount of chest pain.

“That’s the time to seek medical attention and to seek it quickly so that we can give you the therapies, the good medications, the good procedures, that can solve your short-term problem as well as the therapies in the long term like treating high BP, cholesterol, stopping smoking, that can do so much to improve your CV health in the long term,” he said.

Although shoveling may be a part of your regular winter routine, listening to your body’s cues can help avoid a dangerous situation and potentially uncover health problems that weren’t visible before.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.