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Shoveling out? A cardiologist reminds people to protect the heart

The heart doctor warns shoveling is a known trigger for heart attacks.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — As the snow fell Monday morning, people had already started shoveling their sidewalks and driveways.

“It’s a love, hate relationship. It’s beautiful, but at the same time, it can become overbearing,” said Steve Raia of Lancaster County.

Raia knew the snow could become a problem. The Manheim man described the precipitation as heavy early Monday morning and said he wanted to get ahead of it.

“It becomes an extra pain in the butt when you’re not on top of it,” added Raia.

After the morning hours, the snow did become an extra pain for people. It fell fast and heavy throughout much of the afternoon. The snowfall blanketed parts of Manheim Pike in Lancaster and Lebanon Counties — making for quite the treacherous drive.

“You just have to be careful,” warned Dr. Mallory McClure, a cardiologist with WellSpan Medical Group.

The heart doctor says shoveling is a known trigger for heart attacks.

“Unfortunately, when I first came here three years ago, we had a patient who went out and he passed from too much, so it can happen,” added McClure.

She knows not everyone will not heed the warning

“A lot of people are hard-headed, so I say take frequent breaks: Go outside for 10 minutes. Then, come in for 30. Go back and forth,” explained Dr. McClure.

Dr. McClure says people digging out should also drink plenty of water, remember to take their heart medicine, and if people have a stent in their heart or have had a bypass, stay indoors.

“Get your kids, get your grandkids, get a neighbor. I tell my older patients: People really love you and want to help you. Please call for help,” she said.

FOX43 caught people digging out in Lancaster after the last major snowfall.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health also offered some snow shoveling safety tips:

  • Take it slow. Shovel in shifts instead of all at once, and be sure to take breaks and drink water to avoid dehydration.
  • Push the snow, instead of bending to lift it. If you do have to lift, be sure to use your legs, and not your back.
  • Speaking of your back — you should try to avoid any twisting motions that put stress on it.
  • If you’re using a snow thrower, follow all safety instructions and be sure to stay aware of people who might be nearby. 
  • If you experience ANY heart attack symptoms, like chest pain or shortness of breath, stop shoveling IMMEDIATELY and call 9-1-1.

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