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Heavy snow can put your heart health at risk: Heart and Stroke

Heart and Stroke is encouraging people to ease into more strenuous winter activities like shovelling snow.
Heart and Stroke is encouraging people to ease into more strenuous winter activities like shovelling snow. Getty Images

Heavy snowfall means a lot of shoveling, but for some people, all of that extra physical activity could potentially be life-threatening.

According to Heart and Stroke, more Canadians die in the winter months when the chance of heart attack or stroke increases by 10 per cent.

READ MORE: 7 ways to ensure winter shoveling doesn’t hurt your back (2018)

“The snow can transform that landscape, and it does look beautiful, but we know it also is a little bit of a nuisance for us because simply walking in wet, heavy snow can be a little more physical activity than what we’re used to,” said Heart and Stroke Manitoba’s Amanda Nash.

Nash told 680 CJOB that shovelling or pushing a car out of a snowbank, for example, can be strenuous activities that many people’s bodies aren’t used to.

“Make sure you’re easing into it and allowing your body to adjust to that increased strenuous activity.”

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According to a 2017 study by University of Montreal researchers, men made up about 60 per cent of hospital admissions and deaths tied to heart attack between the months of November and April.

The day after a heavy snowfall is when these hospital visits spiked – when one-third of men turned up in hospital for heart-related issues.

Shovel safely: How to dig out after wet, heavy snow hits Winnipeg
Shovel safely: How to dig out after wet, heavy snow hits Winnipeg

A study by Harvard University’s School of Public Health the same year came up with similar results.

The U.S. scientists said two days after a healthy dose of snowfall, hospitals saw a spike in heart attacks, strokes and chest pain – a climb as steep as 23 per cent.

Thankfully, Nash said, many cases of premature heart disease and stroke can be reduced by simply living a healthier lifestyle.

READ MORE: Your risk of heart attack spikes after winter snowstorms, shovelling snow — Canadian study (2017)

“It’s more important than ever to look at your lifestyle and look at prevention through lifestyle choices,” she said. Quitting smoking, eating a healthier diet and improving your physical activity are methods that can make a big impact, Nash added.

That is an especially important message for women, she says.

Women, in fact, are disproportionately at risk of stroke. According to Heart and Stroke’s statistics, two-thirds of clinical research on heart-related issues is centred around men, despite the fact that 45 per cent more women died of stroke than men in 2018.

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“The conditions are a little bit worse for women, and that’s because of many different factors,” said Nash. “We know that women tend to be under-researched, they’re underdiagnosed, they’re under-aware of the risks, and they’ve received different treatment from men.”

Heart and Stroke will be spreading the word about prevention in February, which is Heart Month, with more than 500 canvassers participating in a door-to-door campaign across Manitoba.

Heart attack symptoms women need to be aware of
Heart attack symptoms women need to be aware of