Shovelling snow linked to risks including heart attack, paramedics warn after two calls within an hour

Megan Gillis 3 minute read December 6, 2021

Snow shovelling can be linked to health risks, from back injuries to heart attacks, paramedics warned after tackling two emergency calls within an hour as Ottawa dug out Monday morning.

The mix of cold temperatures and physical exertion increases the workload on the heart, which for some may increase the risk of a heart attack, the Ottawa Paramedic Service said in a public service announcement Monday.

Just after 7 a.m., paramedics were called to Innes Road and Pagé Road where a man in his late 40s suddenly developed discomfort in his chest after helping someone get their vehicle through heavy snow at his workplace.

Paramedics assessed the man, determined he was having a myocardial infarction and rushed him to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute where a cardiologist determined he needed an emergency cardiac catheterization.

In a second call, a man in his late 60s was in life-threatening condition after neighbours saw him collapse in his driveway while shovelling, paramedics said. Bystanders called 911 and started CPR and first responders launched resuscitation efforts before he was taken to a local hospital emergency department.

Paramedics also hailed the “outstanding assistance” of an employee of a local snow removal company who pitched in to clear a path through the snow for paramedics’ stretcher as they arrived to help elderly woman at about 6 a.m. Monday.

City paramedics reminded residents of Canadian Heart Association guidelines for safer shovelling.

Warm muscles before heading out to shovel, push rather than lift to help reduce the strain and use your legs when possible when lifting snow. Choose an ergonomically designed shovel to reduce bending and consider using a lighter-weight plastic shovel instead of a metal one.

Consider taking a break after 20 to 30 minutes, especially with wet snow, and consider shovelling periodically throughout a storm to avoid having to move large amounts at once. Dress in layers that can be removed to maintain a comfortable body temperature and stay hydrated.

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