‘Heart-attack snow’: How shovelling can increase chances of a heart-attack

FPK Photo/Qayoom Khan.

Srinagar: Sheen Tulun or Snow shovelling, a customary exercise which comes with every spell of heavy snowfall in the valley can actually be harmful.

Every year, due to the slow snow clearance operations especially in the peripheries, the people come out with shovels to remove the snow off their driveways and inner roads.

However, health experts in Kashmir have pointed out how this simple act of hard work can put them at a heightened risk.

Dr Syed Maqbool, Consultant interventional Cardiologist Government Super-Speciality hospital Srinagar said many people underestimate just how strenuous snow-shovelling can actually be.

“Heavy, wet snow is often called “heart attack snow” because the great effort required to move it can increase your risk of having a heart attack,” Dr Syed Maqbool said.

He explained how repeatedly lifting a shovel full of heavy snow is similar to climbing up a steep hill with great speed.

“It can also be compared to a person who suddenly hops on a treadmill with the fastest speed. Such activities can increase their blood pressure and heart rate, which results in putting a lot of strain on their heart. And for someone who isn’t used to exercising and being physically fit, it can predispose them to heart attacks,” Dr Maqbool said.

He said that cold is another factor as it can activate the clotting mechanism in our body.

“Cold air may cause constriction of blood vessels, including coronary arteries, and decrease oxygen supply to the heart. Together, these factors can increase the heart’s workload and cause a heart attack,” Dr Maqbool said.

The doctor said that the chances of heart attack are more in people who suffer from hypertension, diabetes, obesity, underlying heart problems and those who are cigarette smokers.

Dr Maqbool noted that every winter during snowfall, heart attacks increase by 5 percent in Kashmir.

“This happens especially in the peripheries like Baramulla, Anantanag, Doda, Kishtwar, Rajouri where there are no adequate snow clearance facilities and people who come out to shovel remain mostly unaware of these risk factors,” he said.

A heart attack refers to death of heart muscle tissue due to the loss of blood supply.

Dr Nasir Shamas Consultant Physician at JLMN Hospital, Rainawari said there are some ways to prevent a heart attack while shovelling snow.

“First, a person should not head straight for shovelling after waking up. Warm up is a must. Do some exercise and give the sun a chance to warm up things a bit,” he said.

The doctor emphasised not to use big shovels for removing snow.

“Try to remove snow with small shovels. Thirdly, dress appropriately. Keep yourself warm enough during shoveling. Make sure, you don’t shovel at a stretch, and take small breaks in between,” he said.

Lastly, the doctor explained to watch out for warning signs.

“If you feel tightness in the chest, giddiness, and excessive sweating, then stop doing it. Consult a doctor immediately,” he said.


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