CLEVELAND CLINIC NEWS NETWORK - Clearing the snow out of the driveway can seem like a daunting task.
And according to Tom Waters, M.D., an emergency department physician at Cleveland Clinic, it is and it's a task that should not be taken lightly.
"You need to be careful when you first get out there - take it easy, take it slow, and rest frequently," said Dr. Waters. "If you are not in the best of shape or if you have a medical condition, you might want to check with your doctor before you get out there and start shoveling snow."
Dr. Waters said it can be easy to underestimate the strain that snow shoveling can put on the body, and particularly the heart.
He said that while few people would go out and run for several miles when they're unconditioned to do so, many of us don't think twice about picking up a snow shovel which can result in a similar type of stress to the body.
Dr. Waters said many people wind up in the emergency department on very snowy days due to heart attacks, chest pain, and respiratory difficulty - especially those with asthma or emphysema.
In fact, previous research has shown an increase in heart attacks during the winter time that occur during snowy days.
Dr. Waters said the keys to staying well when shoveling are to not do too much, take frequent breaks, and listen to your body.
"Pay attention to your body and listen to the signs and symptoms of heart trouble," said Dr. Waters. "If you start to have chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, you might want to take a break. If it doesn't get better with a quick rest, you need to call 9-1-1 and get to the hospital as soon as possible."
If it's a really large amount of snow, Dr. Waters suggests asking or hiring someone to remove it for you.