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NewsBites March 2012 Issue

Snow Shoveling Really Can Cause Heart Attacks

Take it easy out there as winter wraps up. A new study confirms the commonly held belief that strenuous snow shoveling can trigger a heart attack. Researchers reviewed patient records from Kingston General Hospital in Ontario covering two winters, identifying 500 cardiac patients admitted during those seasons. Overall, 7% of those patients said they had been shoveling snow when symptoms developed—a percentage scientists said was significant. The actual percentage of heart problems associated with snow shoveling might be even higher, researchers suggested, since patients had to volunteer this information and were not specifically asked if they’d been shoveling. Of those who did suffer heart problems while shoveling, about two-thirds were men, average age 63, and most had a family history of premature cardiovascular disease. A small previous study in The New England Journal of Medicine concluded that the heavy physical exertion of snow shoveling could cause trauma to coronary arteries, in turn rupturing plaques that then block blood flow.

TO LEARN MORE: Clinical Research in Cardiology, January 2012; abstract at dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00392-011-0356-6.

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