Be careful when shovelling, Canadian men.
A new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that men are 34 per cent more likely to die from a heart attack the day after a moderate snowfall, and 16 per cent more likely to end up in hospital.
The research looked at 128,073 hospital admissions from heart attacks and 68,155 deaths in Quebec between November and April from 1981 to 2014.
One-third of the heart attacks happened a day after a snowfall, and 10 per cent after five centimetres or more of snow.
"It’s the first study that looks at actual risk in population," lead researcher Nathalie Auger told the Montreal Gazette.
Men profiled in a recent study were 34 per cent more likely to die from a heart attack the day after a snowfall of 20 centimetres. (Photo: Aaron Harris/Reuters)
Men accounted for about 60 per cent of the hospital admissions and deaths in the study.
Twenty centimetres of snow was associated with a 34 per cent higher risk of death for men the next day.
Women were only four per cent more likely to die the day afterwards.
Men are at a higher risk for heart attack than women, the researchers figured, and they may also shovel snow more often, an activity that can strain the cardiovascular systems of already vulnerable people.
"We didn’t go to their homes to find out whether they were shovelling or not," Auger told the Gazette.
They just assumed that it was the main link between heart attacks and snow.
“Snow shovelling is a demanding cardiovascular exercise requiring more than 75 per cent of the maximum heart rate, particularly with heavy loads,” researchers wrote.
The activity is especially strenuous because it requires you to use your arm muscles, which is harder than using your legs, cardiologist Barry Franklin told BBC News.
“Snow shovelling is a demanding cardiovascular exercise requiring more than 75 per cent of the maximum heart rate."
Many people also hold their breath while shovelling, he said, and pick the worst time to do it — between six and 10 a.m., when circadian rhythms make heart attacks more likely.
More bad news
The researchers say climate change is likely to mean more and higher-intensity winter storms, upping the risk of heart attacks.
Some doctors advise those over 55 with poor fitness levels to avoid pulling out the shovel entirely, but the Quebec study found that the link between heart attacks and snowfall wasn't any stronger or weaker in different age groups, and they saw a link regardless of the person's cardiovascular risk factors.
As much as it pains us to say it, this may be one of those rare situations where women should take on this job over their male partners or family members. Make them do the laundry instead.