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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Says Don't Let Snow Be a Pain: Ease into Clearing Sidewalks, Drives

Michigan Blues recommend people pace themselves when shoveling

DETROIT, Dec. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- With much of the state experiencing one of the snowiest Decembers in several seasons and prospects for more on the horizon, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network recommend that Michigan residents keep heart health in mind and go slow when clearing snow from driveways and sidewalks throughout the winter. Here are some facts about shoveling:
* Shoveling snow can be hard work. Clearing snow for 15 minutes

qualifies as a moderate physical daily activity recommended by the

U.S. Surgeon General. However, for many sedentary, out-of-shape

Americans, shoveling heavy, wet snow for 10 minutes is equivalent

to running on a treadmill to exhaustion. Studies show that major

snow storms are often associated with increased emergency room

visits for everything from muscle aches to heart attacks, and the

common denominator is snow shoveling.

* The cold temperatures don't help. Cold air raises blood pressure in

people who don't normally have a blood pressure problem and poses

an even greater risk to people with high blood pressure, according

to University of Florida researchers.

Heeding several tips offered by the Michigan Blues can keep shoveling show from being a pain in the neck, or worse, this winter. First, if you have any of the following conditions, talk to your physician before shoveling snow.
The list includes:

* A personal or family history of heart disease or asthma

* Already sustained a heart attack

* A history of back problems

* High blood pressure

* High cholesterol level

* A history of smoking

* A history of inactivity

For healthy, active individuals, the Michigan Blues suggest the following guidelines:
* Use the right shovel. Shovels with S-shaped handles and non-stick

blade surfaces usually require less effort and minimize chances of

back pain that could result from improperly bending or twisting.

Pushing or pulling snow out of the way requires less exertion.

* Avoid stimulants (for example, caffeine and nicotine) that can

raise your heart rate and restrict blood vessels. Avoid shoveling

immediately after eating a large meal.

* Before shoveling, warm up by stretching muscles, especially in the

morning. Muscles are less susceptible to injury during physical

activity after a warm-up.

* Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids before and during

shoveling, but not coffee (see above). Breathing cold air

dehydrates the body.

* Dress in layers so you can remove or add outerwear as needed. Wear

a scarf or mask and/or goggles, especially in windy or blizzard

conditions. Inhaling cold air may constrict arteries, decreasing

your heart's oxygen supply.

* Ease into the work to avoid a sudden load on your heart. An average

snow shovelful of heavy, wet snow weighs 16 to 20 pounds. That

means for every 10 minutes of typical shoveling, you'll be clearing

more than 2,000 pounds of white stuff. To remove snow, bend from

the knees, keep your back straight, lift with your legs and carry -

don't throw - it to the side. New fallen snow is usually lighter,

so don't wait to remove it. Remove heavy snow in two stages. First,

skim off the top layer, and then remove the bottom. If snow is too

heavy to lift, push or pull it out of the way. Take frequent


* Immediately stop if you feel pain or discomfort. No one knows your

body as well as you.

* If you have a lot to clear, consider hiring a removal service.

* Using a snow blower has its own set of rules. First, follow

manufacturer safety precautions completely. NEVER attempt to clear

a clogged or stuck blade or auger unless power is shut off. Avoid

wearing anything that easily can get caught in the impeller, such

as a long scarf or dangling laces. Before starting, be sure

children and others stand clear to avoid being injured by hidden

objects thrown into the air. Even using a snow blower will elevate

heart rates, so talk to your doctor if you have a history of heart


Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit organization, provides and administers health benefits to more than 4.6 million members residing in Michigan in addition to members of Michigan-headquartered groups who reside outside the state. The company offers a broad variety of plans including: Traditional Blue Cross Blue Shield; Blue Preferred, Community Blue and Healthy Blue Incentives PPOs; Blue Care Network HMO; BCN Healthy Blue Living; Flexible Blue plans compatible with health savings accounts; Medicare Advantage; Part D Prescription Drug plans, and MyBlue products in the under-age-65 individual market. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are nonprofit corporations and independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more company information, visit

SOURCE Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
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