Snow shoveling techniques to save your heart

When the snow comes down, we know it must always eventually be moved out of the way. Whether you're shoveling or snow blowing, sometimes it can be quite strenuous. 

Dr. Shukri David, a cardiologist with St. John Providence, sees it every season -- someone having a heart attack while or after they were out taking care of the snow. 

"Snow shoveling is one of the most strenuous exercises out there," he says. "Really, five to 10 minutes of snow shoveling is like walking on a treadmill 30 or 40 minutes."

Dr. Shukri says patients at the biggest risk are those who have prior coronary stints or heart failure. He says that mixed with the strain of shoveling or snow blowing is the perfect storm. 

"Your blood pressure goes up; your arteries constrict; your heart rate goes up; oxygen decreases to the heart, and, with the cold weather, we have heart attacks," he explains. 

He recommends consulting with your doctor before you shovel snow, especially if you're a smoker or someone who isn't routinely exercising. 

If, he says, you want to be stubborn and still head outside -- layer up. Dr. David says wear at least two or three layers of clothing and cover your head and face. He also says to warm up before you head outside. 

Technique can also help protect you, too. 

First, warm up before you go outside. 

Dr. David says don't use one of those wide shovels. Use a smaller one that's only a few inches across. 

He says you can put your foot on the top of the shovel, and use it to push the shovel forward to gather the snow, rather that bending down and pushing it forward. That can injure your back. 

He says be outside for 10-15 minutes maximum, and then go back in and warm up.