It’s that time of year when the leaves start to change color and we take our sweaters out of storage. When it’s time to rake those leaves, health experts caution that you should take steps to protect your heart health.

“While the average episode of leaf raking may not be extremely physically demanding, certain stressors could potentially strain the heart,” said Michael Chen, MD, a cardiologist and director of the Cardiac Cath Lab at Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital.

When you do yard work or any physical activity, your heart rate increases to pump extra blood to your muscles. This increased workload on the heart could trigger a heart attack, especially in these conditions.

  • Cold weather
  • Rainy weather, causing wet/heavy leaves
  • Heavy/hard yardwork

Take Safety Precautions

“If you have heart disease or just aren’t used to strenuous physical activity, our recommendation is to do small amounts of activity at a time and take breaks,” said Lauren Conley, a clinical exercise physiologist at Washington Adventist.

Try these other tips to keep your heart safe this fall.

  • Let a family member know when you’re doing yardwork
  • Warm up and stretch for five minutes before starting
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Start slowly and pace yourself – don’t let yourself get out of breath
  • Use a smaller rake to lift only small amounts of leaves

Know the Signs of a Heart Attack

  • Chest discomfort:You may feel pressure, squeezing, burning, indigestion-type discomfort, fullness or pain in the chest that lasts for 15 minutes or longer.
  • Upper body discomfort:You may feel this in the arms, shoulders, back, neck, jaw or stomach that is persistent for 15 minutes or longer.
  • Shortness of breath: You may have an unusual shortness of breath that lasts for more than 15 minutes.
  • Other signs: You may feel cold sweats, nausea, weakness, fainting and lightheadedness.

Instead of the typical chest pain, women are more likely to experience fatigue, shortness of breath, or weakness.

Michael Chen, MD

Michael Chen, MD

Interventional Cardiologist

Dr. Chen is an Interventional Cardiologist at Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital.

Lauren Conley

Lauren Conley

Clinical Exercise Physiologist

Lauren a clinical exercise physiologist with the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital.

Do you know your heart's age? Find out how healthy your heart is with our fast & free heart risk assessment.