With winter comes snow, sometimes a lot. While many people may find shoveling the inches – or feet – of snow off the driveway and sidewalk a dreaded activity, it’s also an activity that should be done with caution.
Studies show that people who have heart disease should avoid shoveling snow. Why? The exertion of shoveling snow can induce the rupturing of a stable cholesterol plaque in patients with heart health concerns, explained Ahmad Daraghmeh, MD, FACC, a cardiologist with Trinity Health.
A Harvard study estimates that roughly 100 people (mostly men) die during or just after shoveling snow each year in the United States, and more are admitted to the hospital with chest pain or other heart problems. A correlation was discovered that hospital admissions and deaths due to heart attack occurred the day after it snowed in Canada during the years 1981 to 2014.
According to the studies, this tends to happen more in colder states (like North Dakota). The extreme cold with extreme exercise “can put a burden on a stable cholesterol plaque coupled with vascular spasm that may cause instability and rupturing of that plaque, leading to a heart attack,” Dr. Daraghmeh said, warning that people with documented cases of coronary artery disease need to be cautious.
The most common symptom of coronary artery disease is angina-like chest pain or discomfort, which occurs when too much plaque builds up inside arteries, causing them to narrow.
Risk factors for coronary artery disease include diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, being overweight, physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, and smoking tobacco, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, adding that a family history of heart disease – especially at an early age (50 or younger) – also increases risk for coronary artery disease.
Trinity Health’s MyChoice Health Checks can help identify coronary artery disease through Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring, which detects developing plaque or calcium in the coronary arteries that can lead to a heart attack.
In addition, MyChoice Health Checks include screenings for abdominal aortic aneurysm, carotid artery, electrocardiograms, and peripheral artery disease. These screenings are performed at Trinity Health’s Advanced Imaging Center, located in Health Center – Town & Country. The results from these screenings are interpreted by a radiologist or cardiologist, with some requiring additional evaluation that may be offered and supervised by a nurse practitioner.
If you think that you have coronary or peripheral artery disease (or any of the others that MyChoice Health Checks screen for), please consult with your primary care provider or schedule a screening by calling 701-857-3220.