The Associated Press is reporting that last month’s storm, which dropped more than seven feet of snow around Buffalo, NY, has claimed its 14th victim.
A man from the town of Hamburg, in Erie County, died from complications following a cardiac arrest suffered while he was shoveling snow sometime around Nov. 17.
Of the 13 other deaths attributed to the storm, several were also determined to be caused by cardiac events brought on by clearing snow.
Accuweather published an article Dec. 11 warning residents of cold-weather areas to be careful of high-stress activities as Western New York saw another snowstorm — though not nearly as severe as its November predecessor — move through the area.
Winter Heart Attack Risks
According to research from Harvard, as many as 1,200 people die in America each year from cardiac events during or after snowstorms. Shoveling, according to the The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide, is “often the precipitating event.”
So why can shoveling snow be so dangerous?
All cardio exercise puts strain on the heart, but cold weather can exacerbate this strain and put generally healthy people at risk for cardiac events. Cold causes arteries to constrict, raising blood pressure and heart rate — which puts stress on the heart.
Harvard offers some fairly simple guidelines on managing the risks of shoveling snow: “If you have a heart condition, you shouldn’t shovel under any circumstances. People older than 50 should also try to avoid it.” And if you absolutely must shovel snow, the guide says, “Rest often. Dress warmly and stay well hydrated. Wherever possible, push the snow rather than lift it. Clear only the snow that blocks your path into the house, the rest will melt on its own.”
Of course, home and business owners are often stuck in a catch-22, knowing that leaving stairs and walkways uncleared can cause slip-and-fall hazards. In that case, it’s best to enlist the help of a younger person or hire a professional whenever possible.
“Snow removal can be a significant liability for people who do not have the proper training, equipment, and experience,” says James Reeve, CEO, Chapel Valley Landscape Company. “For this reason, we highly suggest the use of fully insured professionals to handle snow and ice management. We prepare year round for winter weather to ensure safe and efficient services when inclement weather is forecasted.”