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Billings doctor: Snowstorms can trigger snow shoveling-induced heart attacks

City has volunteers for residents who need help shoveling
dr. emily hanson.jpg
Posted at 6:18 PM, Apr 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-12 20:18:41-04

BILLINGS — Shoveling snow is strenuous work, and doctors say we exert more energy shoveling snow than our regular exercise routine. That has one local Billings Clinic cardiac doctor reminding us to watch for heart attack signs and symptoms.

Dr. Emily Hanson says conditions like this can lead to busy emergency departments, and often people don't realize something is wrong until long after they're done shoveling.

"Today's winter conditions may actually be the perfect storm of heavier snow, wetter snow," says Hanson. "What people might initially be unconcerned about as a muscle ache or a muscle spasm may actually be a sign of a heart attack and that's what concerns me the most."

Signs and symptoms include: chest pain, tightness or pressure, chest pain with lightheadedness and sweating, neck, jaw or shoulder pain, back pain, upper abdominal pain or discomfort, unusual shortness of breath, nausea, unusual fatigue and dizziness.

If you're not a professional at shoveling like Jennie Sitzmann with Lawn Ranger in Billings, doctors recommend taking frequent breaks and hydrating just as you would with regular exercise.

"It keeps you fit, that's why I like it," says Sitzmann. "You get going and you try and get a path going and it gets real heavy. It's heavy."

Hanson recommends asking for help from neighbors or community members if you shouldn't be shoveling due to health concerns.

The city of Billings has a great snow buddies program where they connect volunteers to those who need help shoveling their sidewalk, and they're looking to add more people to the volunteer list. If you'd like to help, or if you need help, call the city's code enforcement department at 406-237-6146.