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February 24, 2003
Toronto EMS urges caution when shovelling snow
Emergency Medical Services (EMS) - Toronto EMS paramedics urge all
Toronto residents to exercise caution and common sense when shovelling snow.

"The recent tragic deaths from apparent heart attacks related to snow
shovelling show that, for certain people, snow shovelling may trigger this
sudden and silent killer," said Tom Murray, co-ordinator of Toronto EMS'
Community Medicine Program. "Even healthy middle-aged or older men and women
may be at increased risk when attempting to shovel heavy, wet snow."

Even moderate shovelling may cause a person's blood pressure and heart rate to
rise to dangerously high levels, which makes the heart and lungs work harder.
When the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart is compromised, chest pain
and/or shortness of breath or lethal cardiac rhythms may occur, causing sudden

A heart attack (or myocardial infarction) occurs when a part of the heart
muscle becomes damaged or dies because it is deprived of oxygen. Most commonly,
a small fatty deposit called plaque can rupture, causing immediate narrowing or
total blockage of an artery.

Toronto EMS advises members of the public that if they experience any of the
following feelings or sensations, they should not ignore
  • Pressure or crushing pain in the chest, some sweating, nausea or vomiting
  • Pain that starts in the chest and extends to the jaw, left arm or left shoulder
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Any abnormal or prolonged shortness of breath
  • A feeling of "heartburn" which can mimic a heart attack.
not delay in calling 9-1-1. Stop what you are doing immediately and rest. Your
life may depend on it," added Murray.

Media Contact
Tom Murray,
Toronto EMS Community Medicine Program,

Larry Roberts,
Toronto EMS Media Relations,



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