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Stay safe when shoveling snow

Clearing snow can leave you with aches and pains—and strain your heart. So play it safe:

Prep your body. Warm up your muscles with 10 minutes of light exercise.

Clear snow early and often. Moving heavy, packed snow raises the risk of an injury or overtaxing your heart.

Pace yourself. Take frequent breaks—never shovel to the point of exhaustion.

Be sure to get an OK from your doctor before digging out if you don’t exercise regularly or if you have a medical condition. Dexter Hazlewood, MD, internal medicine physician, also advises patients to perfect their snow shoveling technique. "Try to push the snow, rather than lift it," he says. "If you must lift, do it properly. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Don’t bend at the waist—lift with your knees. Instead of throwing snow over your shoulder or to the side, walk to where you want to dump it."

And "listen to your body," he says. "Stop shoveling right away and call 911 immediately if you experience any possible signs of a heart attack, such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea or light-headedness."

Additional sources: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Heart Association

Categories: Heart health

Be prepared

Dr. Hazlewood sees patients at HSHS Medical Group Adult & Geriatric Medicine–North Main, located at 2981 N. Main St. in Decatur. Call 888-724-8660 for an appointment.