As our region is hunkering down for the blizzard of 2016, it’s important to think about how this snow storm could affect your heart.

“Colder temperatures combined with the physical activity of snow shoveling is a recipe for putting your heart under great stress,” says David Brill, M.D., interventional cardiologist with Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center and Adventist Medical Group. “Shoveling like any vigorous activity has a 50 times higher risk of heart attack for inactive people compared to people who keep themselves fit.”

Tips for Shoveling Snow

If you are planning on shoveling snow, Brill says keep in mind there are many ways to make snow removal safer:

  • Take breaks while shoveling and pay attention to how your body feels during your breaks.
  • Treat shoveling like a workout, and avoid eating a large meal prior to shoveling (a small snack is ok).
  • Use a smaller shovel to avoid lifting heavy amounts of snow and push the snow out of the way instead of lifting it.
  • Dress warmly and drink plenty of water.
  • Know the warning signs of a heart attack and what action to take if you or someone else is experiencing symptoms.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

  • Chest Discomfort: pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of the chest
  • Upper body discomfort: discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Other signs: these may include cold sweats, nausea, and lightheadedness

“If symptoms don’t go away with 5 to 10 minutes of rest, call 911,” adds Brill.

For more winter weather heart tips from Dr. Brill, listen to his interview on WTOP radio. Adventist HeathCare Washington Adventist Hospital and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center are accredited Chest Pain Centers recognized for excellence in the treatment of heart attack by the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care.

To learn if your heart is up to task, take a free online heart risk assessment at