IU Health Cardiologist Has Tips to Stay Healthy While Shoveling Snow

Though the rains this weekend may have washed away the majority of the snow, there’s bound to more snowfall headed our way, and an IU Health cardiologist has some advice for those who are responsibility for clearing the snow off of steps, porches, and driveways.

Dr. Risha Sukhija told WKVI that the most important thing is to stay warm and don’t shovel snow if cold is a trigger for any condition you may have. If you get chest pain, stop immediately, as cold can cause spasms in heart arteries.

Sukhija said there are many conditions that can make shoveling snow a risk.

“Basically, those who have had a prior heart attack, those with known heart disease, those individuals who have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, those people who smoke, and those people who have a sedentary lifestyle. Because certainly if you’re exposing yourself to exertion in cold weather, this can lead to a heart attack,” Sukhija said.

But for those of you who can’t get out of the painstaking task of shoveling the snow, he does have some tips on how to stay healthy while undertaking the job.

“First, do not eat heavy before you shovel snow. What happens is blood gets diverted from your heart to your gut when you do that, and most importantly, people who have heart disease should talk to their physician before they take on shoveling snow. You should avoid shoveling snow soon after you wake up because in the morning, one is more prone to have a heart attack, so wait for around 30 to 45 minutes warm up before you start to shovel snow,” said Sukhija.

Like any other exercise, Sukhija said you should warm yourself up before going out in cold weather. Also, do not drink coffee or smoke at least an hour before you shovel snow, and do not smoke during breaks. Coffee and cigarette smoke are actually triggers which can increase heart rate and blood pressure, Sukhija said.

Finally, use a small shovel. A big shovel can have more stress on your body. Take frequent breaks, drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, and dress in layers to avoid hypothermia.