Snovember

Rather Quite Obvious, Now That You Mention It

A resident in Depew, New York, digs out after a massive lake-effect snowstorm blanketed the region. (Photo: Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

It is the sort of question you might be tempted to answer simply and bluntly, such as by saying, “Well, we’re Americans.”

At least two people have died from heart attacks while shovelling snow in Buffalo, New York. Every winter, about 100 people in the US die doing this. Why?

(BBC)

Turns out the answer appears to actually be medical:

A study looking at data from 1990 to 2006 by researchers at the US Nationwide Children’s Hospital recorded 1,647 fatalities from cardiac-related injuries associated with shovelling snow. In Canada, these deaths make the news every winter.

Cardiologist Barry Franklin, an expert in the hazardous effects of snow removal, believes the number of deaths could be double that. “I believe we lose hundreds of people each year because of this activity,” says Franklin, director of preventative cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation at William Beaumont Hospital, Michigan.

His team found that when healthy young men shovelled snow, their heart rate and blood pressure increased more than when they exercised on a treadmill. “Combine this with cold air, which causes arteries to constrict and decrease blood supply, you have a perfect storm for a heart attack,” he says.

Well, yeah, it would be medical anyway, even if the answer was, “He froze to death.” Then again, we cannot predict that such a notion would have any effect. After all, we’re Americans.

You know how it goes: Sure, it happens. But not to me.

And then one day you fall over, face-down in the snow. Such is the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

Just … you know, take care of yourselves. The only upside is that you won’t be around to hear your mates razzing you about it at the pub.

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British Broadcasting Company. “Why do so many people die shovelling snow?” BBC News Magazine Monitor. 19 November 2014.

Image credit: Derek Gee/Buffalo News