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Billings Clinic Heart Team joins local hardware stores to promote shovel safety

Heart attack warning stickers on snow shovels
Posted at 8:15 PM, Oct 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-28 22:15:06-04

BILLINGS - Here in Montana, we all know it’s coming: that thick, heavy, snow and frigid temperatures.

Whether you like it or not, it’s time to gear up, and that means grab your snow shovel and pay attention to your body.

“One time of year where sedentary people suddenly increase their physical activity, and it's something that puts a big strain on the heart,” said Dr. Colin Fisher, director of the Billings Clinic Chest Pain Center.

For the past five years, Billings Clinic has printed thousands of heart attack warning stickers to attach to snow shovels at local hardware stores. They're a reminder of the signs and symptoms behind a heart attack.

“So any symptoms that are new or worsening, like shortness of breath, chest discomfort, sometimes it's heaviness or pressure rather than pain,” said Fisher. “Sometimes it's back discomfort or pain in the jaw, shoulders or neck. Things like exertional nausea or dizziness would also be concerning symptoms that they should talk to the doctor about.”

Each year, nearly 12,000 people head out to shovel snow and end up in the emergency department.

Too much exertion too quickly can trigger a heart attack, especially in the cold.

Your choice of shovel can also make a difference.

Cecil Johnson, at the Ace Hardware on 13th Avenue in Billings, knows her stuff, and what you need to consider when selecting your snow shovel.

“All the styles are made for each body type if you will. So longer handled shovels for a bigger frame person, shorter handles, maybe for a smaller frame person, as well as the ergonomically friendly snow shovels which are the ones with the curve,” she said.

Johnson says that curvature helps move the snow using less effort.

“It does a rolling effect when you're pushing. It kind of catches the snow and rolls it for you so it helps you move the snow as opposed to a flatter one (snow shovel)," she said.

She says a flatter shovel forces you to use your muscles to bend, lift and push the snow out of your way.

Johnson also reminds buyers to consider the weight of the shovel: “Snow is already heavy, and you don't want to be pushing more weight than you absolutely have to.”

The material, the width, the shape, the length, Johnson is full of information and tips for your home, work, or even your vehicle snow shovel.

As for health concerns, she also reminds residents to not wait until the snowfall completes its full dump of snow. Instead, head outside after a couple inches have fallen, remove that, and then head back out again a couple hours later.

Fisher said try to check in with your doctor even before the snow falls. If you have heart problems or find yourself tiring easily, switch to a smaller shovel, take frequent breaks, and stay hydrated.

“Just pay attention to your body,” said Fisher.

Pay attention, stick to the facts on the snow shovel stickers, and call 911 immediately if you experience chest pains or think you are having a heart attack.

You can find the Billings Clinic Heart Attack warning stickers at the Billings, Laurel, Columbus and Red Lodge Ace Hardware stores, as well as Billings Hardware, Roundup Hardware in Roundup, and R&R Hardware in Shepherd.