I fell quiet over the holidays, mostly because it was busier than we ever expected, but also, because a couple of days before Christmas, a family friend passed away.
Her death drove home an important health issue that is too often forgotten in winter because it goes in one ear and out the other.
Shoveling snow can kill you in minutes if you aren’t in a state of good health.
In this situation, a 50 year old women who was a recent cancer survivor and still unwell, felt she had to shovel out the walkway and was in no condition to do that. Maybe she felt she couldn’t wait for her boyfriend to get over to the house, I don’t know.
As you’ll remember before Christmas a lot of snow fell but it was light and fluffy, so she obviously thought it was easier i.e. harmless.
It wasn’t. The danger of over-exerting yourself to the point of a fatal heart attack is not only for “old”, “obese”, or “out of shape”. Anyone who’s frail due to illness – as she was, down to 85 lbs., should not be doing the walk or driveway.
If you have relatives or neighbours in that state, maybe check in with them during or after snowstorms, and if you or your teenagers can help, bundle up and invest an hour in doing the shoveling for them.
I’m not sure if there is some kind of ‘neighbourhood watch’ in Winnipeg to coordinate this type of community service, but there should be. There are not many sights worse than a family grieving a death of someone they love, over Christmas.
Tips for Protecting Your Heart
Before You Shovel Snow
Talk to your doctor before you take on this task of snow shoveling
Avoid shoveling immediately after you awaken as most heart attacks occur early in the morning when blood is more prone to clotting. Wait for at least 30 minutes and warm up
Do not eat heavy meal before shoveling: blood gets diverted form the heart to the stomach
Warm up your muscles before starting by walking for a few minutes or marching in place
Do not drink coffee or smoke for at least one hour before or one hour after shoveling or during breaks. These are stimulants and elevate your blood pressure and heart rate
While Shoveling Snow
Use a small shovel: shovel many small loads instead of heavy ones
Begin slowly and take frequent, 15 minute breaks
Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
Dress in layers, to avoid hypothermia (low body temperature) or overheating
Cover your head and neck (50% body heat lost thru head and neck)
Cover your mouth (breathing cold air can cause angina or trigger breathing problems
Watch for warning signs of a heart attack, lightheadedness, dizziness, being short of breath or if you have tightness or burning in chest, neck, arms or back. If you think you are having a heart attack call 911.