Snow shoveling isn’t for everyone.
Thousands of people are injured and dozens die each year while dealing with the maligned winter task. And for those of a certain age or health, experts say you might be better off leaving the shovel for someone else.
As much as it seems like a mundane outdoor job, snow shoveling has resulted in thousands of injuries and can even lead to a fatal heart attack.
TO peer-reviewed study published in 2010 estimated that nearly 200,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for snow shoveling-related incidents between 1990 and 2006, or an average of about 11,500 people a year.
Soft tissue injuries represented more than half (54.7%) of the cases followed in the study. Lumbar injuries represented a little more than a third (34.3%) of the cases.
Shoveling snow can also be a trigger for heart attacks, experts say.
The 17-year study recorded 1,647 deaths, all of them heart-related.
So if you need to clear your driveway after a big snowfall, think carefully about who’s holding the shovel this winter.
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Older middle-aged adults should try to avoid shoveling snow, experts say.
Dr. Barry Franklin has conducted studies on the subject after meeting two people who died during or after snow removal. He cautions against anyone over 45 participating in the winter task because of the “perfect storm” of factors that seem to cause heart attacks.
Dr. Luke Laffin, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, encourages people to start finding other ways to shovel snow once they turn 55.
The precise age at which someone should hang up the shovel varies depending on a person’s health status and heart history, Franklin says, but he generally advises older adults to find another way to clear their driveway.
“I think it’s really impossible to say a certain age. I see people every day; sometimes I see a 70-year-old man who really looks and functions like he’s 40, and other people vice versa,” said Franklin, director of preventive cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation at Beaumont Health in Royal Oak, Michigan.
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The recommendation boils down to the high prevalence of heart problems in middle-aged or older adults. Nearly half of American adults have cardiovascular disease, according to a Report of the American Heart Association in 2019.
One factor that makes the task dangerous for groups at risk is the weather. Cold temperatures can raise blood pressure and constrict coronary arteries, Franklin said.
Combine the cooler air with the intense exertion of shoveling, especially heavy, wet snow, and it can be a deadly combination for an age group widely known to have heart problems.
“It’s like doing a stress test. I mean, it’s the ultimate workout,” Laffin told USA TODAY.
In fact, the task can be as intense as running.
A peer-reviewed 1995 study co-authored by Franklin found that the two activities (shoveling snow and running on the treadmill) generated approximately the same heart rate in a group of young adult men, and shoveling snow actually stimulated higher systolic blood pressure. high.
For older, middle-aged adults who don’t get much exercise or are generally inactive, Franklin and Laffin agree that it’s best to leave the shovel for someone else.
And regardless of age, those with at least one medical condition, such as an existing case of cardiovascular disease, should try to find another way to clear their driveway. Laffin said.
“In particular, people who have multiple medical conditions, such as coronary artery disease or hypertension, or who are perhaps overweight or obese and don’t get much physical activity, it’s not worth risking your heart,” he said.
Finding a younger neighbor or relative is an option, as is an electric snow blower, though even that can be an exercise.
“If you’re not in good shape, it’s not a bad idea to leave that task to someone else.”
Follow USA TODAY’s Jay Cannon on Twitter: @JayTCannon
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism