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Cardiologist Warns to Weigh Risks, Take Precautions Before Shoveling Snow

ALBANY, N.Y., Dec. 31, 2013 — Adults should take simple precautions to guard against the unique stresses shoveling snow can have on the heart, according to Albany Medical Center’s top cardiologist.

“Snow shoveling may pose a slightly greater risk than other forms of vigorous physical activity because it is performed in a cold environment — which increases cardiac stress — and because most snow shovelers attack the job without a warm-up and generally overdo it,” said Edward Philbin, M.D., chief of Cardiology.

The cardiologist offered these tips to all snow shovelers:

  • Consult a physician before engaging in vigorous physical activity such as snow shoveling if you are typically sedentary, especially if middle-aged or older, or are otherwise at risk for heart disease.
  • Dress warmly — including gloves and a head covering — because hypothermia can increase cardiac stress.
  • Treat it like exercise by easing into the shoveling job to warm up, shoveling lighter loads and taking regular breaks.
  • Shovel with a buddy, or at least have someone check on you at regular intervals.
  • Avoid alcohol, which increases the risk for hypothermia and may also cloud judgment.
  • Be mindful of the signs of heart attack, and call 911 if they occur.
  • Practice heart-healthy behaviors such as a healthy diet and regular exercise year-round to reduce the risk for heart attacks, including those that might occur while shoveling snow.

“Remember that this is not an Olympic event, and there are no gold medals,” Dr. Philbin said.
Dr. Philbin said people who are physically fit or without heart disease generally have no problem with snow shoveling, and that patients with stable heart problems who exercise regularly and follow their doctor’s treatment plans can shovel snow safely if they pace themselves and take regular breaks.

Albany Medical Center, northeastern New York’s only academic health sciences center, is one of the largest private employers in the Capital Region. It incorporates the 734-bed Albany Medical Center Hospital, which offers the widest range of medical and surgical services in the region, and the Albany Medical College, which trains the next generation of doctors, scientists and other healthcare professionals, and also includes a biomedical research enterprise and the region’s largest physicians practice with more than 400 doctors. Albany Medical Center works with dozens of community partners to improve the region’s health and quality of life. For more information: www.amc.edu or www.facebook.com/albanymedicalcenter.

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*Questions & Comments:

Sue Ford
Extension: (518) 262 - 3421
  fords@mail.amc.edu



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