Why Does Snow Shoveling Increase the Risk of Heart Attacks?

Discover why snow shoveling increases heart attack risk in cold weather exertion.

Why Does Snow Shoveling Increase the Risk of Heart Attacks?
Photo by Lance Reis / Unsplash

It’s no secret that snow shoveling is an annual task that can pose unexpected dangers, particularly regarding heart health.

The combination of cold weather and physical exertion creates a risky scenario for many individuals.

Let’s explore the factors that contribute to the significantly elevated likelihood of having a heart attack while shoveling snow.

Cold Weather Constriction

The cold weather during snow shoveling causes blood vessels to constrict, making it harder for the heart to pump blood.

This can lead to an increase in blood pressure and the risk of blood clots.

Additionally, extreme cold can make breathing more difficult for individuals with existing heart conditions.

Sudden Physical Exertion

Shoveling snow involves vigorous physical activity, putting immense stress on the heart, particularly for those leading sedentary lifestyles, individuals who are overweight, or those with existing heart conditions.

This sudden exertion can trigger a heart attack, especially for those unaccustomed to such levels of physical activity.

Environmental Factors

In addition to the physical aspects, environmental factors like slippery surfaces, uneven terrain, and the strenuous task of bending and lifting heavy snow can increase the risk of falls and injuries, adding further strain on the heart and elevating the risk of heart attacks during snow shoveling.

Preventive Measures

To minimize the risk, taking frequent breaks, staying hydrated, and avoiding heavy meals before shoveling is crucial.

Consulting a doctor before undertaking snow shoveling is advisable for individuals with existing heart conditions.

Additionally, using a smaller shovel to lift less snow at a time and pushing rather than lifting when possible can help reduce strain on the heart.


While snow shoveling is viewed as a routine winter task for many, it's important to recognize its potential dangers, particularly the elevated risk of heart attacks.

Understanding the factors that contribute to this risk can help individuals take proactive steps to safeguard their health during the winter months.