It takes a lot of physical energy to shovel snow off your driveway in the winter. Adding this exercise to extremely cold temperatures can cause strain on your heart. Surprisingly, cardiac-related deaths account for about 100 deaths every year.
Shoveling snow can be dangerous for anyone of any age, but it is more dangerous for those above the age of 55. This is because people of this age are at a much higher risk of heart attack in general, and that risk is increased during physical activity. If you are 55 or older, it is highly recommended you hire someone to shovel your driveway in the winter.
Why is Shoveling Snow Dangerous for Older People?
Shoveling snow is an activity that uses every muscle in your body and can quickly make you sore. One shovel full of snow can weigh about fifteen pounds. You have to bend, lift, and move this weight to another spot completely. This puts more pressure on your body than lifting weights.
A young person can experience a rise in heart rate and blood pressure when shoveling snow, but it isn’t as detrimental as it is to older people. This is much likely to be worse when the person shoveling the snow doesn’t exercise regularly or tends to hold their breath when lifting the snow.
Combining the rise in heart rate and blood pressure with cold temperatures provides the perfect equation for a heart attack. As the cold air increases blood pressure, the arteries constrict, and blood flow is restricted to some parts of the heart. This causes blood clots to form and leads to the shutdown of heart muscles.
Other Health and Related Hazards Older Adults Face
In addition to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and potential heart attack, there are other serious health and other related hazards that older people are more likely to experience when shoveling snow.
One of the most common hazards older people face is slipping and falling. As you age, your muscles will get weaker, and your balance will get worse. Older people are at a much higher risk of falling and hurting themselves while shoveling snow.
Older people with diabetes or poor blood circulation are also at risk of frostbite. Frostbite can ultimately lead to tissue destruction and loss of feeling. This can happen quickly, so it is best to avoid the situation in general.
Hypothermia risk also increases in older people. As people start to age and get older, the body begins to experience sarcopenia and the metabolism starts to slow down. This results in a rapid loss of body heat and leads to hypothermia.
Are the Elderly the Only Ones with Risks?
Age is not the only reason someone might be at risk when shoveling snow off their driveway. If you have an existing heart condition, you are also at a much higher risk for getting extremely hurt when shoveling snow.
Others at risk include people who have higher cholesterol or hypertension, people who smoke, or people who have a history of heart attack or stroke. In these situations, it is best to hire someone else to get the job done for you. This will be your safest and best option for getting your driveway clear.
Tips for Safe Shoveling
While it is best to avoid shoveling your own driveway and have someone else do it, it’s not always possible. If you are above the age of 55 and have no option other than shoveling your driveway on your own, there are some things that you can do to make the job a little easier and a little safer.
Dress in Layers
First, always make sure you dress warmly. You need to wear multiple layers of clothing and cover your entire body. This includes your head, hands, and face. If you get too hot with these layers, take a break. Do not take layers off and go back outside, just take a break.
You will also want to make sure you are wearing waterproof boots. This will protect your feet from getting wet and cold. It is also important to make sure the boots are skid-resistant to prevent slipping.
Get a Smaller Shovel
It is also important to make sure you are using a small snow shovel. A regular sized snow shovel can weigh around fifteen pounds. While that might not seem like a lot of weight, it is more than you think. Using a smaller shovel means the shovel won’t be as heavy and you aren’t putting as much strain on your body.
Limit Your Time
You can also set time limits and shovel frequently instead of just once. You can shovel as the snow falls to prevent snow and ice from building up. This will make it safer for you because you can see the ground more easily and know where you are stepping. As for setting time limits, you should only shovel for a maximum of thirty minutes at a time.
Lift with Your Legs
One thing that is helpful that most people always forget is to lift with your legs, not your back. Bend and straighten your knees as you lift the shovel instead of leaning forward and backward with your back. Legs have stronger muscles than your back and they can handle the work.
Avoid Shoveling by Yourself
Always let someone know that you are planning on shoveling before you go out. This could be your neighbor or your spouse, but it should be someone that can keep an eye on you and make sure you get necessary help as quickly as possible if necessary.
Know Your Limits and When to Quit
If you are shoveling snow and feel like you absolutely can’t go any longer, then you need to stop immediately. You should also avoid shoveling snow when there is more than four inches on the ground. In this case, it is best to call a snow removal company or ask a neighbor kid to help you out.