Tips for shoveling snow safely

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Shoveling snow safely
Shoveling can increase the risk of a heart attack because physical activity makes the heart pump faster, while cold weather constricts the blood vessels.

NAPERVILLE, Ill. (WLS) -- The blizzard left behind a lot of snow to shovel, which not only can be a nuisance, but a health hazard. At least seven people across three states died while clearing snow Sunday and Monday. Three of the victims were in DuPage County - all men in their early 60s.

Dr. Annabelle Volgman, a cardiologist at Rush University Medical Center, says shoveling can increase the risk of a heart attack, because physical activity makes the heart pump faster, while cold weather constricts the blood vessels. She says anyone with heart conditions should simply not shovel.

"I would advise that they don't shovel the snow. Hire somebody. It's the best $20 they can give to someone younger who can do it for them," Dr. Volgman said.

Even physically fit people run the risk of hurting their back or neck with one wrong move. Dr. Wellington Hsu, an orthopedic spine surgeon at Northwestern Medical Center, says sometimes three moves done at once can sideline a shoveler.

"It's the bending, the lifting and twisting, that when done all at once can put a lot of pressure on the discs and can predispose patients to getting a back injury," said Dr. Hsu.

Doctors also advise if you have to shovel, do it in small increments, push the snow when you can instead of lifting it, and take lots of breaks.

READ: Why shoveling can be so dangerous to the heart


At least seven people died while clearing snow across three states Sunday and Monday.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office is investigating three deaths believed to be connected to heavy snowfall over the weekend.

According to the office, a 69-year-old Shorewood man with a history of heart issues died Sunday afternoon after shoveling snow. Officials say a 62-year-old West Allis man who has a history of high blood pressure and cholesterol died Sunday night after he collapsed while snow blowing.

The office reports the third snow-related death happened Monday afternoon, following an incident involving a 64-year-old Milwaukee man with a history of heart disease.

The DuPage County coroner's office in Illinois says three people died shoveling snow following a winter storm that dumped up to 20 inches in the Chicago area.

According to the coroner, three men in their early 60s were shoveling snow on Sunday at their DuPage County homes when they collapsed. Deputy Chief Coroner Charlie Dastych says the men were taken to local hospitals, where they later died from heart-related issues.

He says anyone who suffers from a heart condition or has multiple risk factors, such as obesity or a poor diet, should reconsider shoveling wet, heavy snow.

Dastych says the men were from Lombard, Winfield and Naperville.

Officials in Ohio, where the storm hit before slamming into the Northeast, said a Toledo police officer died while shoveling snow in his driveway Sunday and the city's 70-year-old mayor was hospitalized after an accident that may have occurred while he was out checking road conditions.

The officer, who was not named, died of an apparent heart attack. Doctors say Mayor D. Michael Collins was heavily sedated and in critical condition Monday, a day after he went into cardiac arrest and his SUV crashed into a pole on his way home not long after a news conference.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.