Be careful when shoveling snow

Ask Bob

Ask Bob

February 26, 2009|By BOB POOR

Q: My husband can't wait for the next snowstorm ... he loves to shovel snow! However, he is 75 and I worry about his health. Can you provide some tips that would help him ... and me?

A: Well, how about buying your husband a snow blower for his birthday? If he insists on staying with his shovel, here are a few suggestions from a variety of Internet sources.

For people older than 60 who lead sedentary lives or who have heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or who smoke, shoveling snow can increase the incidence of heart attacks.

According to Dr. Murray Mittleman, a researcher at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, the chances of having a heart attack in the hour following a physically draining task - like shoveling snow - are 53 times greater for someone who is out of shape than for someone who is physically active.


The difference between shoveling snow and mowing the lawn is the cold temperature. The body's natural reflex when exposed to cold is to constrict arteries and blood vessels. This, combined with an increase in heart rate and blood pressure during strenuous activity, is the perfect combination for a heart attack.

If you choose to shovel snow, consider these tips:

o Consult your doctor to determine if you are healthy enough for such strenuous activity.

o Dress in layers. Wear waterproof gloves or mittens and a wool scarf.

o Drink plenty of water. Avoid dehydration.

o Warm up your muscles before you begin. Avoid back and leg strain.

o Use a shovel with a smaller blade. Wax the blade if you use a push-type shovel.

o Protect your back from injury. Make sure to lift correctly.

o Take frequent breaks. Enjoy talking to your neighbors.

o Stop if you feel pain. Know the signs of a heart attack and get help immediately.

o If at all possible, make sure someone is aware that you are outside shoveling and can sound the alarm if you get in trouble.

o And one final tip from an "old pro" who owns a driveway with a slope to it.

o Pull on a pair of large socks over your shoes and you will avoid slipping and sliding on the ice and snow. Now that I think of it, most of the tips will work for a snow blower, as well.

Good luck, either way.

Hagerstown resident Robert A. "Bob" Poor is a member of the Society of Senior Advisers and provides senior professional services for reverse mortgages and personal insurance. He also is a member of the Senior Referral Center of Hagerstown.

Questions are welcomed at or by mail c/o The Herald-Mail, P.O. Box 439, Hagers-town, MD 21741, ATTN: Robert A. Poor column.

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