Researchers looked at more than 128,000 patients admitted to hospital for a heart attack, and more than 68,000 heart attack deaths in Quebec, Canada between 1981 and 2014 from November to April. They also got weather information and used it to track snowfall prior to the admission to hospital and/or death.
Among the men, a third of the heart attacks occurred the day after a snowfall. The association between shovelling and heart attack was very strong. If the snow fell for two to three days, the association between shovelling and a heart attack was even stronger. The correlation was true regardless of the patient's age, the presence or absence of cardiovascular risk like high blood pressure or other health conditions.
But here's the thing. The correlation was only true for men – not women. The researchers say they suspect that shovelling caused heart attacks because men are more likely than women to shovel snow. That may be true, or it might be a sexist assumption.
Shovelling leads to a sudden demand on the heart to work harder and to increase heart rate and strain. The context is that many people pick up a shovel and do maximum effort despite living a sedentary life.
Men age 50 and older with heart disease should avoid shovelling snow period. Men with significant risk factors for heart disease should consider not picking a shovel either.
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