People die every year from heart attacks while shoveling snow. During New York's blizzard of 1996, a large portion of the 4,600 911 calls received were heart-attack related. No one knows if they were all shoveling snow, but at least seven people in New Jersey and Long Island are reported to have died while clearing their driveways [source: The New York Times]. This happens when people who are more used to channel surfing than exercise leap from their couches and start lifting 40-pound heaps of snow. This kind of sudden increase in activity isn't a good thing if you aren't in shape. If you need to clear your driveway, get help from a young neighbor. If not, go slow and steady, taking breaks as often as you need.
It's also a good idea to shovel early and often to avoid a massive build-up of snow. A low snow level is easier for the sun to melt once the storm passes. Don't shovel after a meal or cigarette, as your blood is being used to digest food or the vessels constricted from nicotine. Push the snow straight ahead, then to one side, and don't ever attempt to toss a heavy load of snow over your shoulder.
Read on for tips on how to recognize and treat cold-weather illnesses.