Heavier snowstorms may mean an increase in fatal heart attack risks for men, a new study finds. Men were 16% more likely to suffer cardiac arrest and 34% had higher odds of dying from it after a storm dropped at least eight inches of snow.
Women, however, appeared not to be affected by the same situation, the Canadian study says. Previous studies have linked the act of shoveling snow to higher risks of heart attacks in the days after a storm, and this research provides new information on the matter, Reuters reports.
The study examined several decades of health data for patients in hospitals in Quebec. Dr. Nathalie Auger, lead author on the study from the University of Montreal, says,
We found that both the quantity and duration of snowfall were associated with an increased risk of heart attack for men but not women.
The results don’t specify why only men appeared to be affected by snow storms. But they do suggest that people should be more careful when shoveling, and avoid the task altogether if there is a medical history of heart problems, Auger states.
In addition, Auger says, “It may be that men shovel more than women, particularly after heavy snowfalls. It is also possible that men put more effort into shoveling, and have a tendency to overdo it.”
The team behind the study looked at 128,073 hospital admissions and 68,155 deaths due to cardiac arrest in Quebec from 1981 to 2014. They focused primarily on deaths that occurred from November to April, when snow storms generally hit. They likewise obtained data on weather, such as the amount of snow involved and the duration of storms.
In total, men accounted for 62% of the hospital admissions, and 57% of the deaths recorded. Around 33% of heart attacks took place the day after a snowfall, and 10% happened after at least two inches of snow hit.
When the storm continued for at least 24 hours, men were 8% more likely to go to the hospital for a cardiac arrest and 12% more likely to die. The same was not true for women.
The study had its limitations. Dr. David Alter of the University of Toronto says, “We really don’t know for certain whether snow shoveling was the only explanation for their results. That said, there are studies that have shown mechanistically, how much strain is placed on the heart during snow shoveling.”