At least one death in Milwaukee and one death in Iowa were attributed to shoveling snow during this recent snowstorm. A study of the number and cause of deaths in Massachusetts immediately after six blizzards showed a 22 percent increase in heart related deaths following a blizzard. Published studies show that the number of heart attacks increases during the week following a blizzard as well,which suggests that it was blizzard-related activities that caused the deaths as opposed to exposure to the storm itself.
Heaving snow can raise your blood pressure, increasing the risk of a heart attack. Of course, snow shoveling itself may not be inherently dangerous. Any physically intense activity, such as running or skiing, could lead to increased deaths; however snow-shoveling is an outside activity that many people do after a big snow storm, including folks who may not otherwise do strenuous activities. If you don’t have a snow blower, you certainly know that shoveling is an intensive exercise.
Heart attacks aren’t the only problems associated with snow shoveling. One study found that in the US between 1990 and 2006, 195,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for snow shoveling related injuries. These treatments were for back problems, sore muscles, and broken bones. Some tips to avoid health related problems if you have to shovel snow include: warm-up and stretch your muscles before shoveling (good practice for any exercise), wear boots that won’t slip on the snow, pace yourself, and push the snow rather than heave it.