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CMHC PULSE

Cardio Metabolic Health Congress – Official Blog

Shoveling in Snowstorms: Bad for the Heart?

A new study published in the Canadian Medical Association has found that the days following a heavy snowfall often carry a significantly greater risk of heart attacks for men.

The medical community has long suspected that snow shoveling can increase heart attacks at a population level, yet this study concretely confirms the link between snowfall and heart attacks.

Researchers from the University of Montreal gathered reports of 128,073 hospital admissions and 68,155 deaths from heart attacks in Quebec between the months of November and April, every year between 1981 and 2014. The team also obtained weather information that corresponded to the time frames and regions included in the study.

When comparing the medical and weather data, the researchers found that the most dangerous days occurred immediately following snowfalls: almost one third of all hospital admissions and deaths due to heart attacks occurred on these days. Moreover, the risk was even greater subsequent to snowfalls that lasted two to three days.

The findings serve as a reminder that people should remain vigilant about potential cardiovascular risks, in addition to automobile accidents and snow-related falls. Furthermore, snow shoveling is challenging for the heart, and can pose an extreme strain and danger if overdone.

Because the study analyzed trends over time, it did not establish a specific cause-and-effect relationship between snow-related activities like shoveling and heart attacks. Yet the authors’ hypothesis—that men are more likely to shovel post-snowstorm, and that shoveling is responsible for the increased risk of heart attacks—is more than plausible, and reason enough to approach shoveling with care and caution.

The study further indicates that the physical exertion and cold temperatures associated with shoveling snow set the stage for an “eco-biological-behavioral perfect-storm,” particularly for those out of shape, or people with other heart disease risk factors.

While shoveling is likely the primary reason that heart attacks increase after a snowstorm, it is critical to be mindful of heart health all year round. In addition to avoiding shoveling, people should also be physically active and have a nutritious diet.

Less Screen Time, More Sports: Childhood Obesity & Cardiovascular Disease

A host of studies have confirmed the correlation between childhood obesity and adult cardiovascular disease, illustrating the consequences of obesity during childhood.

Because obese and overweight children are more likely to become obese adults than those who were not obese as children, they face an increased risk of developing chronic diseases such as CVD, type II diabetes, and certain cancers. Accelerated BMI (body mass index) in children puts children at the highest risk for cardiovascular disease in adulthood.

Therefore, it is critical to trace the growth of children in order to detect and prevent elevated and accelerated BMI gains during early development periods. There are pragmatic measures that parents can take to ensure that their children prevent the onset of heart disease, and lessen risk factors. Identifying opportunities to promote physical activity and a healthy diet will potentially limit the development of risk factors associated with CVD in adults, namely hypertension, high cholesterol, hyperglycemia, and being overweight or obese.

The strong correlation between obesity and CVD indicates a need for early intervention; early life is the most significant target time to address prevention and treatment of obesity. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “It is never too early for the family to make changes that will help a child keep or obtain a healthy weight.” Both parents and physicians must encourage children to maintain a healthy weight, in addition to promoting educational materials that illustrate potential risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Current recommendations include reducing screen time—during which children are generally physically inactive—and increasing participation in extracurricular athletics and sports. The CDC has confirmed that sources such as families, schools, communities, and the media are all highly influential in the success of the aforementioned initiatives.

Parents must model healthy behaviors for children, spurring even small changes like healthier snacks in the home, adjusting bedtime to allow for at least 9 hours of sleep per night, and ensuring at least an hour of physical activity each day.