Snow and Heart Issues Don't Mix

February 12, 2016

John Menley's follow-up visit with Dr. Anthony Sonn 
one week after his heart attack.

ST. LOUIS - John Menley had just eaten dinner when he felt what he thought was indigestion. He propped up his feet for a while, but decided to just sleep it off. The next morning, that feeling came back.

This time, as snow was falling, he took his wife’s advice and went to the hospital. But first, before driving himself, he decided to shovel.

“Me being the dude that I am, I grabbed the shovel, shoveled off the sidewalk and driveway approach,” Menley said. “I dug out the minivan and cleared it off and was ready to go. My wife has mobility issues, so if I had to stay in the hospital, how would she have managed?”

Snow shoveling can make people forget their abilities. For someone who doesn’t normally work out, the physical exertion along with the cold can quickly lead to heart trouble.

“Each winter during and after snow storms, we tend to see people coming to the ER for chest pain and many of them mention shoveling before they felt symptoms,” said Dr. Anthony Sonn, Mercy Clinic Heart and Vascular. “Shoveling is definitely a workout.”

After dropping his wife off at the emergency room and then parking, Menley finally made it to the hospital.

“The nurse knew the situation by the time I made it inside, so she threw me in a wheelchair immediately,” Menley joked. “Thirty five minutes later I was on the cath lab table being told I had a 90 percent blockage.”

“John is extremely lucky he didn’t have more damage to his heart muscle than he did,” Sonn said. “Every minute counts when it comes to seeking treatment for a heart attack.”

Menley is now doing well. He jokes about his situation, but does offer advice to others: “If you feel weird, see someone quickly. My story could have ended much differently.”

The American Heart Association compiled a list of tips to avoid heart trouble during snowy weather, including this one that would have helped Menley.

Learn the heart attack warning signs and listen to your body, but remember this: Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, have it checked out (tell a doctor about your symptoms). Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives — maybe your own. Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1. It’s very important to be proactive about any heart attack warning signs. Learn about heart disease risk factors, management, and general heart health in the Mercy Heart-Healthy Guide.

For the full AHA list, click here.

To find a cardiologist near you, click here

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