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HORIZON HOME CARE BLOG

My Elderly Father Shoveling Snow Scares Me

Question

"My elderly father insists on shoveling snow even though he has a heart condition. I'm worried I'll get a call from one of the neighbors saying he's had a heart attack and was found lying in the driveway. I live an hour away from him and still work full time. I cannot physically plow my driveway, drive to his house and plow his and still get to work on time. Money is not an issue for him, yet he refuses to hire someone to just plow him out whenever there is a snow storm. Any thoughts on how I can reason with him?" - READER
 

Answer

It appears that your father is setting himself up to be a statistic. He has probably shoveled snow since he was able to lift a shovel and does not believe he is at risk.

By sharing this column with your father, he can learn a few important facts about how shoveling snow affects the body.

  • "According to past estimates, about 100 people — mostly men — die during or just after shoveling snow each year in the US. Many more are admitted to the hospital with chest pain or other heart problems." (Click to Read Article)
  • We are more prone to heart attacks in the morning when most people shovel.
  • Most elderly do not regularly exercise, and snow shoveling can be more intense than many gym exercises.
  • People rarely do warm-up exercises before shoveling.
  • Lifting heavy snow raises the heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Cold air causes blood vessels to get smaller.
  • The heart needs more oxygen when shoveling.
  • People hold their breath when lifting, which decreases oxygen supply.
  • People with heart disease cannot supply the heart with the extra oxygen it needs. 
  • The heart eventually fails when it does not receive necessary oxygen.

With all of that said I believe I have even talked myself out of ever shoveling again! 

but seriously, if your father insists on shoveling, here are seven steps he needs to take.

  1. Get doctor's permission.
  2. Do some form of doctor-approved cardiac exercise regularly.
  3. Do warm-up exercises before shoveling.
  4. Use a shovel that carries smaller, lighter loads.
  5. Shovel in sections and take breaks.
  6. Cover the nose to breathe warmer air.
  7. Do not hold your breath.

If you cannot talk Dad into hiring some else to shovel, at least share with him what steps he should take to protect himself. 

I wish you the best on your journey.
 

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