Clearing Heavy Snow Could Be Health Risk


UPDATED: Thursday February 6, 2014 6:11 PM

Medical experts warn this latest snowfall amounts to an increased risk to your health -- and a surge in emergency room visits.

Several inches of heavy, wet snow fell over Central Ohio. Now, we are left to dig ourselves out.

Snow shoveling sends hundreds of people to the emergency room every year.

It's so infamous for the risk it poses, it's commonly referred to as "heart attack snow" in the medical community.

When surface temperatures are near the freezing mark as they were during this latest storm, the snow has high moisture content, making it much heavier.

"But as you can see, I got to get this driveway clean, or it's like a pinball machine!" said Grandview Heights resident Dan Vogel.

Vogel said he's had a previous heart problem, but he has a more pressing problem now -- what to do with all the snow blocking his driveway.

"This past snow was so wet, snow blowers didn't work," Vogel said.

This moisture-laden snow weighs twice as much as light; fluffy snow... a shovel full may only weigh about seven pounds, while this heavier variety can weigh upwards of 15 pounds.

"And really, when people clear their driveway, you could be moving several hundred pounds of snow," said Ohio Health Cardiologist Dr. Peter George. "You don't really realize that because you've got a snow shovel and you're doing it in increments."

In addition, the cold air causes blood vessels to contract, Dr. George said, restricting blood flow and making your heart work that much harder.

"It's like lifting weights and running on a treadmill at the same time," said Dr. George. "And you're doing it with upper and lower extremities."

In Clintonville, Gregg McGrail says he's in for the long haul -- taking smaller scoops of snow, and frequent breaks.

"I watch the size of the scoop I take, and I use my legs quite a bit, so that I don't try to strain my back and my arms," said McGrail.

At-risk groups include the elderly and people with a history of heart problems.

But, doctors say, anyone experiencing any of the classic heart attack symptoms for more than five minutes should seek emergency medical care.

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