There’s something gentle and peaceful about a snowfall — that is, until it comes to shovelling the stuff, at which point it can become deadly. Digging yourself out after a large snowfall can be “a shock to the system,” says Matthew Mayer, a senior specialist of research at the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. The people most at risk are those who don’t exercise, and for whom “snow-shovelling may represent the most strenuous activity they do in the year,” says Dr. Neil Fam, a cardiologist in Toronto.

When a person starts vigorously shovelling snow, the blood flow to the heart becomes very fast. This may not cause problems for someone who is fit, but for someone who is unused to physical activity, the rush of blood can lead to chest pain, or angina, “because the heart muscle isn’t getting enough oxygen supply,” Dr. Fam says. “I often think a really good saying is, ‘We should be getting fit to do these activities, not do these activities to get fit.'”

Bottom line, take breaks and/or get a snow removal service.

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