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Do heart attacks go up when the snow flies?

If you're thinking about shoveling, be sure to do it safely.

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After a big snowfall, many hearty shovelers are anxious to get outside and clear their sidewalk and driveway. But if you have a history of heart disease or high blood pressure, think twice before picking up that shovel.

In 2017, researchers looked at 128,000 heart-related hospital admissions. They found that one-third of the heart attacks and deaths happened a day after a snowfall. (This was a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.)

As temps drop, cool air can raise heart rate and blood pressure. Blood also tends to clot more easily and tighten up arteries. This can lower blood supply.

“Shoveling snow, along with inhaling frigid air, is hard work for anyone. But if you have heart disease, you should be especially careful. Talk to your doctor before doing any exercises out in the cold,” said Joshua Jacobs, MD, Optum.

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Learn how to keep your heart healthy

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Schedule your Annual Wellness Visit.

Get started 

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Tips for safe shoveling

If your doctor gives you the OK to shovel show, here are tips to help you get the job done safely.

  • First, know the signs of a heart attack. Call 911 right away if you suspect your heart is in danger. While shoveling, keep your cell phone in your pocket.
  • Stretch before you go outside. Remember, you’re getting ready for a workout.
  • Check the weather, temperature and wind chill before going outside. Use that information to decide when to shovel and what to wear. Excess sweat will make you lose heat. So remove extra layers of clothing when you feel too warm.
  • Use the right tool and the proper technique. Choose a shovel with a small, plastic blade that weighs less than a shovel with a metal blade. At the same time, a shovel with a small blade will limit you to small scoops.
  • Try “pushing” the snow instead of lifting and throwing it. This will help keep your heart rate from going up. 
  • Take frequent breaks to go inside to warm up, rest and drink water. 
  • Know the signs of hypothermia and frostbite. Watch out for shivering, exhaustion, confusion, slurred speech and drowsiness. Get help for anyone with a temperature below 95° F.
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Will Medicare cover an Annual Wellness Visit?

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Original Medicare covers the Annual Wellness Visit at 100% of the Medicare-approved amount when you get the service from a provider who accepts Medicare. You pay nothing (no deductible or coinsurance).

Medicare Advantage plans must cover Annual Wellness Visits without applying deductibles, copays or coinsurance when you see a network provider and meet Medicare’s rules for the service.

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Sources:

  • American Heart Association
  • National Safety Council
  • Medicare Interactive
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.