Snow Shoveling-Triggered Heart Attacks
Dr. Adrian Baranchuk, a professor in Queen’s School of Medicine and cardiologist at Kingston General Hospital (KGH), together with Wilma Hopman (Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, KGH Clinical Research Centre), William McIntyre, (Queen’s medical resident), and Salina Chan and David Schogstad-Stubbs (Queen’s medical students), have made a connection between snow shoveling and heart attacks, an urban legend commonly supported by anecdotal reports.
Although two of the most important cardiology associations in the US include snow shoveling as a high risk physical activity citing one or two incidents, Dr. Baranchuk found the evidence not convincing enough to label snow shoveling a dangerous activity. “We thought that this evidence should not be enough to convince us that snow shoveling is potentially dangerous,” said Dr. Baranchuk.
Together with his team, Dr. Baranchuk reviewed records of KGH patients from two previous winter seasons. It was found out that among the 500 patients who came to the hospital for heart-related problems, 7 percent or 35 patients had experienced the symptoms while shoveling snow.
Dr. Baranchuk explained that 7 percent of anything in the field of medicine is a huge and significant number. “If we take into account that we may have missed some patients who did not mention that they were shoveling snow around the time that the episode occurred, that number could easily double,” he added.
His team was also able to identify three main factors that put anyone at a high risk when shoveling snow: gender (31 of the 35 patients were male); family history of premature coronary artery disease (20 of the 35 patients); and smoking (16 out of 35 patients).
This is the first study on the urban legend snow shoveling-caused heart attacks recently published in Clinical Research in Cardiology.