Every year with the first few snowfalls, there is an increase in injuries and heart attacks resulting from the added strain put on our bodies of shoveling or snow-blowing, and even walking in the snow and ice. Men are less likely to seek treatment for injuries, and one study of New Yorkers showed that of 187 heart attacks, 57 percent of women called 911, while only 28 percent of men did. Here are a few tips for greeting the snow season safely.
#1 – Shoveling and snow-blowing are pretty strenuous activities, unless you have an exceptional self-propelled snowblower. It’s important that you prepare your body properly just as you would for any physical activity by warming up a little first. Ideally, doing some dynamic stretches or walking for a few minutes just before tackling all that snow will help get your joints lubricated, warm up your muscles, and bring your heart rate up more gradually. Swing your arms in forward and backward circles, do some trunk rotations from side to side by reaching to your left and then your right while keeping your feet in place, and twisting at the waist. Bend your upper body sideways, reaching down with one arm and over your head with your other arm, and do some toe-touches. This will help to prevent back injuries and get your heart going more gradually. If your cars are covered in snow, brushing them off or scraping them off before tacking the driveway and walkways can also be an effective warm-up activity.
#2 – Men are more likely to die of a heart attack than women because they are less likely to seek help if they are experiencing chest pain, a squeezing sensation in the chest, arm pain, nausea, and other signs of a possible heart attack. Instead of taking a wait-and-see approach to any of these symptoms, it’s important for men to go ahead and call 911 at the first symptoms to increase the chances of survival. Snow shoveling and snow-blowing are pretty strenuous activities, and if you’ve been largely inactive, the first few snowfalls can bring on a heart attack as the strenuous activity forces the heart to work harder than it’s used to working. Be aware that even if you don’t have a diagnosed heart condition, an undiagnosed underlying condition may exist that can cause a heart attack during strenuous physical activity.
#3 – Men have stronger upper bodies than women, and as a result, they tend to pick up larger, heavier shovelfuls of snow than women will. This puts them at risk of back injury, particularly if they’re not generally active and not used to such heavy lifting. Try not to overload your shovel, and be conscious of how you’re bending, lifting, and throwing the snow. Avoid over-extending your body if you’re turning to throw the snow to the side of the driveway, and don’t over-reach when you’re pushing the shovel. Obviously, it would be best if we all stayed active and fit and worked on our core strength on a regular basis, so if you’re not currently active, consider getting more active.
#4 – Make sure you have the right shoes for the job, and if you’re living in a particularly cold region where the snow and ice is ever-present throughout the winter, it’s a good idea to get a set of ice grips that you can strap onto your shoes. There are several brands available, just be sure to choose a set that has good spikes on them so that they’ll really dig into slippery packed snow and ice. Slipping and falling can cause back, neck, knee, and head injuries, as well as hip injuries. A broken hip can become life threatening, particularly if you’re older, as the recovery process requires long-term bed rest. Being on bed rest for an extended period of time can lead to serious, potentially life-threatening complications such as deep vein thrombosis (blood clots) and pneumonia, which can be life threatening.
#5 – Something a lot of people don’t think much about is the tires on their vehicles. As the cold weather approaches, make sure that your tires have enough tread, and replace them if they’re too worn. If you live in an area where there’s a lot of snow throughout the winter, consider getting a set of snow tires for your vehicle through the winter months. The rubber and tread on these tires is designed to grip better in the cold. Whatever tires you have on your vehicle, check the tire pressure regularly throughout the winter—for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit drop in temperature, your tires will about 1 psi of pressure, so with fluctuations in temperature, your tire pressure will change, and can cause increased fuel consumption and even blowouts that can cause serious accidents.
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