Here in Cleveland we just got another blast of winter cold and snow. Invariably the conversation turns to which suburbs do the best job of clearing the roads, as well as the usual observations about whether the person hired to clear the driveway and sidewalk had done their job satisfactorily.
For many years while I lived in Columbus, I used to shovel my driveway. Later on, when I had more responsibilities at work–and when it always seemed to snow on Shabbat when I couldn’t shovel–I paid someone in the neighborhood to take care of it.
A topic that comes up every now and again is how dangerous it might be to shovel snow from a health standpoint. We hear stories about people having heart attacks while shoveling, but what is the real story?
According to MetroHealth’s website here in Cleveland: “Shoveling, even pushing a heavy snow blower, can cause sudden increase in blood pressure and heart rate, and the cold air can cause constriction of the blood vessel and decrease oxygen to the heart. All these work in concert to increase the work of the heart and trigger a potentially fatal heart attack.” What we have here is a kind of double-whammy. On the one hand, the physical exertion leads to elevated and respiratory rates, while on the other hand, the cold air may prevent the additional oxygen from reaching the heart where it is needed most.
For most folks in decent health, the risk still remains relatively low. In fact, according to an article from Harvard Medical School, only about 100 people die each year from shoveling snow. Here is the link: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-shoveling-snow-put-your-heart-at-risk-2017120612887. If, however, a person already has compromised heart or lung function or is elderly, there is definitely a risk factor here.
Each person knows their own body best. While there may be a low risk of a cardiac event, others may develop issues with soreness of muscles as a result of shoveling. There is also the danger of slipping on the ice if such conditions exist with an increased risk of fractures among many older adults.
Weigh the pros and cons…and consider that paying a neighbor’s son or daughter to shovel may not only help preserve your health (definitely a Jewish value) but also help a young entrepreneur on their way to self-sufficiency!
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