Shoveling snow doesn’t have to be a hazard

Article by America’s Master Handyman® – Glenn Haege

In the next month or so, the snow will start flying, and that means it’s time to make sure you have your snow shovels and snow throwers ready to remove it. Unfortunately, shoveling wet and heavy snow can put some people at risk of having a heart attack.

According to Barry Franklin, Ph.D., Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Exercise Laboratories at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, those who are older than 45 and have a history of heart problems, symptoms suggestive of a cardiac problem or major coronary risk factors such as obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, cigarette smoking or high blood pressure, are at an increased risk of a heart attack when shoveling snow.

“The weight of heavy snow in a typical-sized shovel can be as high as 16 pounds, and if you are shoveling at a rate of 12 shovels per minute for 10 minutes, you could be lifting as much as 2,000 pounds,” Dr. Franklin said. “Unfortunately, the usual warning signs of a heart attack aren’t always noticeable, so people may not even know they are having a cardiac problem.”

In a series of studies at Beaumont Hospital, Dr. Franklin found that the heart rate and blood pressure of most subjects in the study catapulted to dangerously high levels while shoveling snow, with the heart rate reaching 170 beats per minute, comparable to the levels achieved during an exhaustive treadmill exercise stress test.

A second study reported on 20 heart attack victims who were admitted to the hospital’s emergency center during a 12-day period of blizzard conditions. Five of the 20, all men age 55 to 77, were shoveling snow.

And two of the five had been using snow throwers.

Obviously, the best way to lower your risk of a heart attack during a snow storm is to pay a snow removal service or local teenager to shovel the snow, especially if you have to shovel the big mound in front of your driveway that the snow plow leaves behind. However, if you have to shovel the snow, Dr. Franklin suggests you don’t do it after eating a heavy meal, drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes. Using a snow thrower does make the job easier, but if you don’t have one, he recommends that you brush or broom the snow wherever possible, and to “push” it with a shovel if the snow is heavier. However, he doesn’t recommend lifting the snow.

Fortunately, there are some good snow-removal products that can help you minimize the amount of stress you put on your heart when shoveling snow.

One thing you can do is use ice melters on the snow before you shovel to help make your snow removal efforts easier. Another is to coat the shovel with a thin layer of silicone spray so the snow won’t stick while you’re shoveling.

Make sure you have a shovel that enables you to push the snow rather than lift it. And the wider the pushing shovel blade is, the easier the job will be. Two wide pusher shovels on the market today include the Alpine 36-inch version from Garant, (418) 259-7711, www.garant.com, or the SnowPusherLite from TRW Innovations, (248) 866-1315, www.snowpusherlite.com, an Auburn Hills-based company.

While most pushing shovels are only good for lighter snowfalls, you will still need to lift the snow occasionally. Lifting shovels that have ergonomically bent handles make lifting the snow easier, and they are available at most local home and hardware centers.

Removing snow from your wood or composite deck requires special care. It’s best to use a shovel with either a plastic or acrylic blade to avoid damaging the surface.

If you have to lift a lot of snow from sidewalks and driveways, you might want to consider the Snow Scoop from Michigan-based company Silver Bear Manufacturing, (877) 483-4077, www.silverbear.biz, which allows you to tip the unique snow scoop up like a dump truck to deposit the snow rather than having to lift a shovel.

Shoveling snow is not high on the list of things people want to do around the home, but using the right products and techniques can help it be less hazardous to your health.

 

Reprinted from MasterHandyMan.com
Publication date: 10/23/2009
http://masterhandyman.com/columndetails.cfm?pubdate=20091023