A recent Canadian study proves what homeowners in cold-weather climates have always suspected: the risk of heart attack increases following a snowfall.
The study was conducted in Quebec from 1981 to 2014 and published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Researchers studied 128,000 heart attack cases and some 68,000 deaths and found that eight inches of snowfall raised the risk of a heart attack in men by 16 percent and the risk of dying by one third.
Women were not linked to this increase, the researchers surmising because men are more likely than women to perform the task of shoveling, which involves strenuous activity. The team posited that the actual motions used in pushing a shovel through snow and ice, and lifting and hoisting it to deposit it elsewhere, may create stressors on the body that are a contributing factor to negative cardiac results.
Shoveling is “a unique activity with both static and dynamic components, involving the Valsalva manoeuvre and increased systolic blood pressure,” the scientists concluded, taking note of the activity’s “intense arm effort, repetitive motion, static upright posture, [and] peripheral vasoconstriction.” Other factors that put stress on the heart were also mentioned, including sudden exposure to cold temperatures and breathing cold air.
The study also cited a separate finding indicating that the amount of exertion involved in snow shoveling rivals high-level aerobic activity such as a treadmill workout at the maximum rate. It’s no surprise, then that according to statistics put out by the Ohio hospital Cleveland Clinic, in the US each year several hundred people suffer heart attacks after shoveling snow outside their homes.