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TAKE IT SLOW WHEN YOU'RE SHOVELING SNOW

 DETROIT, March 5 /PRNewswire/ -- The tremendous amount of energy you expend when shoveling snow can be dangerous to your health and lead to a heart attack, said Dr. Frank J. McDevitt, corporate medical director for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan.
 McDevitt said lifting 10 shovels of wet snow in one minute's time is comparable to climbing seven flights of stairs. A full shovel of wet snow can weight as much as 20 pounds.
 Lightening the load may not help. If the shovel and snow weigh only nine pounds, lifting 10 shovelfuls in one minute is the same as climbing three flights of stairs.
 "Imagine the strain put on your heart when clearing a large area such as a driveway," McDevitt said.
 He offers this advice to lessen the risk of heart attack:
 -- Don't shovel snow if you know your blood pressure is high or if you have heart disease.
 -- If you are not in top physical condition, take it very slow and easy. Load the shovel only half full, or even less if the snow is wet, and move only a few shovelfuls in a minute's time. Rest often.
 -- Use a snowblower or shovels designed to push the snow to keep yourself from bending and lifting.
 -- Cover your head because 30 percent of body heat is lost through the head. Low temperatures can cause a rise in blood pressure in some persons and can also cause a spasm of the coronary arteries.
 -- Move your legs frequently to help pump blood through the leg veins. If you don't move your legs frequently while shoveling, blood may pool in the legs.
 -- Watch your breathing. It is a natural inclination to hold your breath as you lift a heavy shovel of snow. Since this decreases the return of blood to the heart, it can cause cardiac irregularities.
 -- Avoid the use of alcohol, cigarettes and coffee before shoveling snow. These substances dilate blood vessels, and that means you won't be able to retain the body heat you need when in the cold.
 -- It's unwise to shovel snow soon after a large meal. Blood is being diverted to help the body digest the food and less blood is available to circulation to the fingers and toes.
 Persons in good physical condition because of jogging or bicycling should not assume they are immune from heart attacks.
 "These exercises may not be strengthening the arm muscles to the same degree as leg muscles," McDevitt said. "Since shoveling snow involves the arms, the heart has to work harder to pump blood because circulation in the arms is usually less efficient."
 -0- 3/5/93
 /CONTACT: Helen Stojic of BCBSM 313-225-7975/


CO: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan ST: Michigan IN: HEA SU:

ML -- DE001 -- 3317 03/05/93 07:53 EST
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Date:Mar 5, 1993
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