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Shovel With Caution: Cardiologist Says Clearing Snow Can Lead To Unexpected Heart Attacks

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Caution, Caution.

That's the word for the day as the region digs out from under nine inches of snow and more.

The caution goes beyond walking and driving, it also goes to shoveling says Allegheny County Health Network Cardiologist Dr. Amish Mehta.

"Shoveling snow is something we all take for granted, and it's kind of a part of the winter weather, but what a lot of people don't realize is that there's a fair amount of exertion that can go into shoveling snow, and that puts a lot of stress on the heart, in somewhat of a sudden fashion," he explained.

Dr. Mehta says it can hit both genders, at any age but the older you are the more vulnerable.

"Heart disease is related to age the older you are the more likely you are to have some degree of heart disease, and even for individuals who have never been diagnosed with heart disease," he said. "Unfortunately, they may have some degree of heart disease that they don't know about, and the stress of shoveling snow, cause sudden symptoms that may bring heart disease, to the forefront."

Often he sees heart attack victims from snow shoveling who don't think they have a risk factor.

"Most people will have some form of heart disease that could be just something simple from high blood pressure or high cholesterol, to something more involved such as having had a heart attack having stents," he said. "A fair amount of individuals are sedentary especially with the COVID-19 pandemic that we're dealing with and people quarantining or staying at home. This may be the first time, many individuals have exerted themselves in weeks or months. And so the sudden new exertion on the body can cause a heart attack."

When you go out to shovel Dr. Mehta says watch out for the signs.

"When individuals are either during or after the shuffling and they may experience chest discomfort," he explained. "That could be anything from chest pressure tightness, squeezing and aching pain in the chest. They may experience sudden shortness of breath. Now, most of us do get short of breath when we are shoveling, so some degree of shortness of breath is to be expected. But if it's somewhat out of proportion or lasting a lot longer than. Normally, those would be reasons to you know to be concerned."

He says take frequent breaks and listen to your body.

If it doesn't feel right stop, and if the symptoms don't pass get help.

Denial can turn into a traumatic event.

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