Take Care to Protect Your Heart When Shoveling Snow

February 9, 2017

Hackensack Meridian Health cardiologist offers tips for heart health and safety.

Activities such as snow shoveling and walking through heavy wet snow can strain the heart enough to cause a heart attack. As people prepare to dig out from the first storm of the season, special precautions should be taken to remain healthy.

“Shoveling, even pushing a heavy snow blower, can cause sudden increase in blood pressure and heart rate, and the cold air can cause constriction of the blood vessels and decrease oxygen to the heart,” says Dawn Calderon, D.O., chief of cardiovascular disease at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, part of the Hackensack Meridian Health family. “All these factors increase how hard your heart has to work, and for some people it can trigger a heart attack.”

Dr. Calderon and experts from Meridian CardioVascular Network offer the following tips to protect your heart when dealing with the snow:

  • Warm up: shoveling is a workout, so take a few minutes to stretch and warm up before you head outdoors
  • Use a small shovel: shovel many small loads instead of fewer 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 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
  • Wear a bright color so you can be seen, and let someone know you are working outside
  • Carry a cell phone or whistle in case you need help

“Most important is to call 911 if you think you are having a heart attack,” advises Dr. Calderon.

To find a physician or learn more about heart health resources and services, visit HackensackMeridianHealth.org/Heart.

About Hackensack Meridian Health

Hackensack Meridian Health is a leading not-for-profit health care organization that is the most comprehensive and truly integrated health care network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research and life-enhancing care. Hackensack Meridian Health comprises 13 hospitals, including two academic medical centers, two children’s hospitals and nine community hospitals, physician practices, more than 120 ambulatory care centers, surgery centers, home health services, long-term care and assisted living communities, ambulance services, lifesaving air medical transportation, fitness and wellness centers, rehabilitation centers, and urgent care and after-hours centers. Hackensack Meridian Health has 28,000 team members, more than 6,000 physicians and is a distinguished leader in health care philanthropy, committed to the health and well-being of the communities it serves.

The Network’s notable distinctions include having one of only five major academic medical centers in the nation to receive Healthgrades America’s 50 Best Hospitals Award for five or more consecutive years, the number one hospital in New Jersey as ranked by U.S. News and World Report, consistently achieving Magnet® recognition for nursing excellence from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, recipient of the John M. Eisenberg Award for Patient Safety and Quality from The Joint Commission and the National Quality Forum, a six-time recipient of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For,” one of the “20 Best Workplaces in Health Care” in the nation, and the number one “Best Place to Work for Women.” Hackensack Meridian Health is a member of AllSpire Health Partners, an interstate consortium of leading health systems, to focus on the sharing of best practices in clinical care and achieving efficiencies.

The hospitals of Hackensack Meridian Health include: academic medical centers – HackensackUMC in Hackensack, Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune; children’s hospitals – Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital in Hackensack, K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital in Neptune; community hospitals – Ocean Medical Center in Brick, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, HackensackUMC Mountainside in Montclair, HackensackUMC Palisades in North Bergen, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy, Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin, Bayshore Community Hospital in Holmdel, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge, and HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley in Westwood.

To learn more, visit www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org.