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You're Probably Too Old To Shovel Snow

If it doesn't snow where you live, this article isn't for you. But Boomers in the north, take note. If you're over 45, you should think twice about shoveling snow. A peer reviewed study shows that over 11,000 people are treated in the ER for snow shoveling injuries each year, including heart attacks.

The American Heart Association recently put out a warning about shoveling snow, calling it "a perfect storm for acute cardiac events."

For a lot of people, shoveling snow is the only time they do any strenuous activity during the year. Snow can get heavy and shoveling your driveway can take over an hour. If you're not in good shape, maybe think about hiring someone.

The most common diagnosis was soft tissue injury (54.7%). Injuries to the lower back accounted for 34.3% of the cases. The most common mechanism of injury/nature of medical emergency was acute musculoskeletal exertion (53.9%) followed by slips and falls (20.0%) and being struck by a snow shovel (15.0%). Cardiac-related ED visits accounted for 6.7% of the cases, including all of the 1647 deaths in the study. Patients required hospitalization in 5.8% of the cases. Most snow shovel–related incidents (95.6%) occurred in and around the home.

Dr. Luke Laffin, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic, encourages people to start finding other ways to remove snow once they turn 55.

The precise age at which someone should hang up the shovel varies based on the person's health status and heart history, Franklin says, but he generally recommends older adults to find another way to clear the driveway.

“I think it’s really impossible to say a certain age. I see people every day; sometimes I see a guy who’s 70 who really looks and functions like he’s 40, and other people vice versa," said Franklin, director of preventive cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation at Beaumont Health in Royal Oak, Michigan.

“Particularly people that have multiple medical conditions such as coronary artery disease or hypertension, or maybe they’re overweight or obese and don’t get a lot of physical activity – it’s not worth it to risk your heart,” he said.

Finding a younger neighbor or relative is an option, as is an electric snow blower, though even that can be a workout.

“If you’re not in great shape, it’s not a bad idea to put that task on someone else."

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