The Dangers of Seniors and Snow Shovelling

Within Canada, snow is a regular component of the winter season. Each year, we hear of individuals who are hospitalized due to snow shovelling. The fact that snow is so common is the key issue. Each and every year, we head out to our driveways, staying on top of the snow as it falls.

Since snow is such a regular part of our lives, we underestimate how hard it is to shovel. A senior wouldn’t typically go to the gym for half hour, so why should they be shovelling heavy snow? The exercise that they take part in during shovelling, can substantially elevate one’s heart rate. This is what leads to potentially fatal heart attacks.

Is My Loved One At Risk?

According to The Heart and Stroke Foundation, anyone who has previously had a stroke, heart surgery, or heart attack, should NOT be shovelling snow. Although we know that shovelling is risky for these individuals, many still actively take part in this routine. It is important to recognize early signs of a heart attack, just in case this ever occurs:

• Pressure in one’s chest, as the chest tightens
• Feeling dizzy
• Shortness of breath
• Uncontrollably sweating
• Severe nausea

These signs are letting one’s body know that there’s an issue. There is too much work being exerted on the heart. If you do notice these signs, ensure that your loved one sits and rests. If these symptoms continue after a few minutes, call 911.

It is important to note, that individuals who have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoke, or suffer from obesity; should be cautious. All of these factors increase one’s risk of complications. Shovelling snow requires you to pay attention to your body. It’s important to stay safe this holiday season.

Some Helpful Tips

When shovelling at any age, it’s important to focus on ways that you can make shovelling easier on your body and internal systems (especially if you are an inactive individual). The following tips will help seniors address the falling snow in a safer, more effective manner.

1. Refrain from shovelling after you’ve eaten. Once you ingest food, your body works hard to digest what you have consumed. If you begin putting high levels of physical strain on your body, your heart may be affected. It is simply too much all at once.

2. Stretching before shovelling can make a large difference. This is not only in terms of one’s heart, but their joints, muscles, and ligaments. If you step outside and immediately start shovelling, you increase your risk of damage. Light stretching helps to kickstart circulation, warming up muscles.

3. Whenever needed, take some breaks. It is important to let one’s heart rate settle before starting activity once again. Breaks should also include the consumption of water. Shovelling is considered exercise, which means that you need to stay hydrated. If at anytime it feels like too much, stop immediately.

4. Ask family, friends, or neighbours to assist.

5. If there is no immediate help available, look into what the community offers. Snowbuddy for instance, is a service that matches volunteers to seniors who are in need. These volunteers help to remove snow for seniors, decreasing their risk of heart complications and falls.

It is crucial that we focus on the statistics. This is a serious concern, which should not be taken lightly. If you are concerned about your loved one this holiday season, make sure you express those concerns. If possible, get some help, eliminating the work for your loved one altogether.

If you notice that a senior is struggling in your community, offer a helping hand. To you, it may be an extra 20-minutes out of your day. For them, it could be a life-saving gesture.

photo credit: dayfiel via photopin cc

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