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Shovelling in Winnipeg’s Extremes; know your Biomechanics, your limitations and your Physio

A great bulletin from the Heart and Stroke Foundation; Snow shovelling may be dangerous for some hearts

Snow shovelling may be dangerous for some hearts. Reports have linked snow shovelling in extreme cold weather to an increased risk of hospitalization or death due to heart attacks. The Heart and Stroke Foundation advises taking extra precautions when snow shovelling during extreme cold alerts, particularly for individuals with a pre-existing heart condition or who are at high risk of heart disease.

Research shows that physical activity helps protect against heart disease, stroke and many other health conditions. It is also an important part of cardiac rehabilitation programs and an important way for heart patients to keep their cardiovascular system strong and resilient.

Extreme weather conditions, such as very high temperatures and humidity in the summer, smog, and cold winter days, can make physical activity more strenuous. Both strenuous exercise and extreme weather independently increase blood pressure, push the heart rate up, and increase blood concentration of fibrinogen, a protein involved in blood clotting. All of these factors contribute to increased heart attack risk.

The Foundation recommends approaching physical activity in extreme weather with caution if you have been diagnosed with heart or blood vessel disease (including stroke, previous heart surgery, and uncontrolled high blood pressure) or if you are at increased risk of a cardiac event because of high cholesterol levels, an inactive lifestyle being overweight, or obese or other risk factors. Speak to your doctor about what is acceptable for your health.

The risks become even greater when vigorous exercise and extreme weather are combined, such as when shovelling snow in sub-zero weather conditions. Studies show that in most people who have died shovelling snow or carrying out some other form of vigorous physical activity in extreme weather conditions, the plaque inside their blood vessels ruptured and travelled to the heart causing a heart attack. The rupture may be caused by increases in blood pressure or changes in vascular tone associated with physical exertion. Plaque is a sticky, yellow substance made up of fatty substances such as cholesterol, calcium, and waste products from your cells.

Here are some tips from the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Take the time to do a few minutes of warm-up activity like walking to increase your heart rate slowly and prepare you for the activity

Build in frequent breaks from extreme weather activities so your body doesn’t become too strained

Ask for help from family, friends or neighbours if you need to do an urgent task, such as clearing snow, in bad weather;

Wear appropriate clothing and keep water nearby to replace fluids lost through perspiration

Plan ahead. Watch your local weather forecast for smog, humidity, heat and extreme cold alerts and plan for enough time or get help with major tasks like snow shovelling, on those days.

Stop your activity if you experience sudden shortness of breath, discomfort in the chest, lightheadedness, nausea, dizziness, or severe headache and immediately seek medical attention

Snow shovelling in very cold weather has specific risks. Here are some additional tips to help you stay safe during this particular activity:

Don’t continue shovelling just to get the driveway cleared in a hurry. If you’re tired, quit;

Don’t shovel or do any other vigorous activity directly after eating a meal. Your body is working hard enough just to digest the meal; adding vigorous activity on top of that could put too much strain on your heart;

Don’t stoop to pick up the snow; bend at the knees to avoid back problems.

Find out if your community offers programs or assistance for snow shovelling or snow removal (particularly for older adults or those with existing heart conditions)

Play safe Winnipeg; your your biomechanics, your limits and your Physio…

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Winnipeg weather can be dangerous too; ice, falls, car accidents, back pain…get Physiotherapy

As the remnants of Sandy linger out East, and people return to their lives, we give thanks for living in the middle, the relative center, on the Prairies. But as our fore-Fathers discovered, Winnipeg weather can be dangerous too; just today another car accident where the conditions and poor preparation cause injury.

Falls can diminish your ability to lead an active and independent life. About one third of people over the age of 65 and almost half of people over the age of 80 will fall at least once this year. There usually are several reasons for a fall. We can help you reduce your risk of falling, and better your performance through Universal design. We can assess your biomechanics at home, on the job or even during sport; like golf, running and curling.

Balance, together with ‘core’ training can enhance your ability to perform, avoid injury, especially like those from falls.

Aging is a natural process that encompasses biological changes that tend to be associated with the development of joint pain or that may limit the ability to work with joint pain.  In addition to arthritic joint degeneration, aging is associated with loss of muscle mass and muscle function.  Functional loss is influenced by changes at the cellular and molecular physiology level.  These changes may reduce joint stability and impair normal joint motion that affect the ability to tolerate specific work postures and repetitive motion.  With a loss in muscle strength, the same level of physical effort places a greater demand on an individual relative to her/his capabilities.

The relationship between aging and joint pain in the workplace is complex and influenced by a number of factors.  For example, national surveys of workers across a wide variety of occupations indicate that not all older workers (50 years and older) report a greater risk of joint pain.  Older workers at greatest risk tend to be in jobs that have high physical demands.  And once an injury has occurred, it may take longer for an older worker to return to work.  In spite of these factors, studies indicate that older workers suffer no decrease in overall job performance.

Osteoarthritis, and the pain associated with degenerative disc disease in the lower back can be alleviated with laser therapy. If you have questions, do not hesitate to contact your Physio.

You can perform at your best when prepared