Medical experts warn shoveling snow can be dangerous to your health

A study found each year more than 11,000 people are hospitalized with injuries related to shoveling snow.

The time of year is here when the chore of removing snow and ice from a sidewalk or roadway can send you to the emergency room.

A study by the American Journal of Emergency Medicine found that more than 11,000 people seek medical attention for injuries associated with removing snow each year.

While most people suffer from back injuries or hyperthermia, cardiac-related hospital visits were the most concerning and accounted for all deadly accidents researchers examined. 

Cleveland Clinic emergency department physician Baruch Fertel, MD, said the combination of cold temperatures and snow can lead to the perfect storm on the human body.

"Cold weather has a tendency to restrict the blood vessels and cause clotting," Dr. Fertel said. "Add that to people who may not often perform a strenuous activity, and you’ve got a double whammy."

Dr. Fertel said heart attacks can happen when not enough blood reaches the heart, caused by either a clot or a narrowing of the vessels.

Weather conditions such as temperatures and the composition of the snow can play a role in the severity of the health issues.

Medical experts say a heavy, wet snow is known as "heart attack snow" because of the increased efforts it takes on the human body to maneuver through.

"People with heart conditions, high blood pressure, diabetes, and older folks, should not be doing this kind of activity unless they’ve their conditioned in doing so," Dr. Fertel said.

For people who don't have underlying conditions, medical experts say shoveling snow could be a beneficial exercise, if performed in moderation. 

The Cleveland Clinic has several suggested tips to know before you head out shoveling snow:

  • Don’t overexert yourself
  • Treat shoveling like a sport, hydrate and warm-up before
  • Pay attention to your body’s state before and after