by Kirk Winter

With winter not quite over, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit has shared some reminders about snow removal.

Clearing snow and ice from your driveway and around your house is a necessary, but not always pleasant, activity for most of us, said health promoter Joanne Brewster.

Brewster said snow shoveling, especially for some older adults, can be a challenge. In some cases, especially after a bad snowstorm, it can also be a high-risk activity.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, the physical demands of shovelling combined with cold temperatures can pose fatal risks on the heart.

Brewster said there was plenty of proof of that in a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in February 2017. Using 20 years of data from Quebec, the study found a direct link between the quantity of snow and length of snowfall and an increased risk of hospital admissions or deaths due to heart attacks. This was especially true for men.

“Some experts suggest that older adults (men especially) should not shovel snow due to the potential health effects and injury risks,” Brewster added.

Here are some health unit-suggested snow-removal safety tips to consider:

• Consult a health care provider. Anyone who is older, overweight, out of shape and/or has a history of heart disease in the family should seek advice from their doctor before taking any chances.

• Warm up first. Shovelling is just like any other exercise. It’s a good idea to limber up with some basic stretches before you begin.

• Layer upon layer. The body quickly generates heat when shovelling. By dressing in thin, breathable layers, you can avoid overheating.

• Avoid a full stomach. Be sure to digest your meals before picking up the shovel. A full stomach can cause strain on the heart during physical activity.

• Take your time. Take a break. Don’t forget to give yourself a breather in the middle of strenuous shovelling. A rest is good for the muscles, especially the heart.

• Push the snow before lifting it. If you do lift snow, use a small shovel or only partially fill the shovel to reduce the load.

• Stop immediately if you feel dizzy or tightness in your chest.

• Use the buddy system. Even shovelling is better when you do it in twos. You cut your work in half and you have a pal to keep you company. Plus, you can look out for one another should anything serious happen.

• Get with the program. Check with your local municipality or communitybased programs to see if there is help for snow removal, especially if you are a senior. One suggestion Brewster made is 211 Ontario.

• Pay the price and get help. Consider getting a snow blower to make snow removal easier. Hiring a snow removal service to do the job can also be money well-spent.

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