Should You Shovel the Snow?

So it snowed all afternoon and into the night and now the driveway needs to be cleared.  But, as I have mentioned before, Marlo, my husband, has coronary artery disease.  Should he shovel?

Shoveling is such a problem because:

·      It’s often done first thing in the morning.

·      It is often done in a hurry.

·      It is often done in the cold.

·      It is often done in the wind (which makes it so much worse).

·      Every shovel load can vary in weight and can be very heavy.

He was thinking about the snow last evening and mentioned when he would get up and get the snow blower going.  He was concerned about starting the snow blower for the first time this season.  But he also mentioned that he would be sure to keep his nitroglycerin handy.

When a person has coronary artery disease, the entire system of arteries that feed the heart is affected making the person vulnerable to possible rupture of the artery wall.  If the artery wall ruptures, it bleeds, blocking the artery and keeping blood from getting to downstream areas of the heart.  This causes a heart attack.  If this happens nitroglycerin will not help.  You need to get help right away (call 911).  The artery needs to be reopened which can be done by emergency angioplasty.

On the other hand, if you know you have coronary artery disease, but your blood pressure and cholesterol have been well controlled, plus you are doing your best to follow the treatment plan recommended by your doctor, then your coronary arteries are smooth inside.  They are likely stabilized and more normally functioning.  If you have been regularly exercising, your other muscles are ready to work more efficiently. This takes the load off your heart and makes it possible to function well.

However, if you go out to shovel snow and do not feel well (because of chest discomfort or shortness of breath, for instance) you may have a partial blockage in your coronary artery.  This is what Marlo had in May last year resulting in multiple coronary artery stent placement and medical therapy. So if you have concerning symptoms with more than usual exertion, it’s time to see your doctor and get help.

A partial blockage may be helped by using nitroglycerin at the time of symptoms.  The nitroglycerin opens the arteries a tiny bit, that may be enough to allow a bit more blood flow and the heart may be fed adequately. However, if this starts happening, you need to talk to your doctor.

So Marlo got the snow blower started with some trouble. He was able to snow blow the entire driveway and used the shovel for some of it.  He was warmly dressed and allowed enough time so did not feel hurried.  He said he felt fine.

Thanks for your comments and feedback.  Ask any questions that come to mind.  I’m always here.

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