BUFFALO, N.Y. -- It's a mainstay of life in Western New York, shoveling to clear walkways, driveways and generally just making a path to get through all that snow.
However, Pia Musielak of ECMC’s cardiology department, says the activity could prove dangerous.
"What happens in the winter is that people who may not be in good cardiovascular shape and may not exercise on a regular basis or even those who are in good shape and have underlying coronary disease and the just don't know about it,” said Musielak, “They go outside to shovel the snow, which is a very heavy physical activity, in the cold weather when our arteries will constrict on their own, making a blockage even more dangerous."
And that blockage could lead to a heart attack.
A study from Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio found that about 11,000 snow-shoveling-related injuries happen each year and when they are cardiac-related injuries they almost always end in death.
Musielak says if anyone is concerned about their heart health, a quick walk around the block could shed some light on things.
"If you're winded taking a flight of stairs or when you're taking a regular walk or even just trying to walk through the mall with a family member, if you're winded that's a marker that there could be a problem going on, that it's not just your weight,” said Musielak.
And contrary to popular belief, according to Musielak, this is not just an issue for the elderly.
"Heart attacks do happen to old people, but heart attacks also happen to younger people. Heart disease is a continuum where you're building up cholesterol in your heart arteries, every day of your life,” said Musielak.
To improve heart health, she says it's best to see a doctor on a regular basis and make sure to take up a healthy level of exercise.
And if shoveling is a must, keep these tips in mind.
"Definitely dress warm, cover your mouth when it's really cold out. Don't go outside and shovel the snow is really heavy and the wind is whipping or it's very cold out. Taking frequent breaks if you feel strained or stressed when you’re outside shoveling, take a break,” said Musielak.