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23-12-2010 | Cardiology | Article

Snow shoveling poses cardiac risk


Free abstract

MedWire News: Results from a 17-year US study indicate that snow shoveling may precipitate adverse cardiac events, especially among men aged 55 years or older.

"Snow shoveling can be a hazardous activity to some individuals because of the demands it places on the cardiovascular system," explain Gary Smith from The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, USA, and team.

"The cardiovascular demands of snow shoveling are also increased by the freezing temperatures that are typically present. Freezing temperatures alone can increase cardiac workload by causing peripheral vasoconstriction and increasing blood viscosity.

"Previous studies have shown that cold temperatures alone (even without vigorous physical exertion) are associated with myocardial infarction in at-risk patients," they add.

Using data from the US National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, Smith and colleagues analyzed the diagnoses given to patients presenting at US emergency departments (ED) with snow shoveling-related complaints from 1990 to 2006.

In all, 195,100 patients were treated for a medical condition precipitated by snow shoveling. Chest pain, cardiac arrest, and other cardiac-related symptoms accounted for 6.7% (n=12,500) of these cases.

In addition, 11,315 (5.8%) of all patients treated required hospitalization after ED presentation, and 1647 subsequently died.

The researchers found that of those hospitalized, more than 50% had cardiac-related cases, and all deaths were cardiac-related.

Writing in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, Smith and team report that patients aged at least 55 years had a 4.25-fold greater risk for developing cardiac-related symptoms while shoveling snow than patients younger than 55 years (confidence interval [CI]: 3.40-5.32).

And men aged 55 years or older had double the risk for developing cardiac-related symptoms during snow shoveling than women of the same age, with a relative risk of 2.28 (CI: 1.53-3.41).

Although the majority (53.9%) of ED presentations following snow shoveling were musculoskeletal in nature, Smith and colleagues emphasize that "cardiac-related cases were the most serious of those studied."

They conclude that individuals, especially those with a sedentary lifestyle, should take precautions and consult a physician before undertaking strenuous snow shoveling.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Lauretta Ihonor

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