CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — As snowfall looms on Central Illinois this week, medical professionals are warning of the dangers associated with clearing it from driveways and sidewalks.

Doctors say shoveling snow can increase the risk of a heart attack, especially in males who are 55 years of age or older.

Dr. Arvind Devanabanda, an intervention cardiologist at UnityPoint Methodist Hospital in Peoria said in cold weather, blood vessel contract, creating higher blood pressure. Add that effect to the strenuous activity of shoveling snow and it can be detrimental.

“It is a very strenuous activity. It increases your heart rate, it increases your blood pressure and is essentially a significant natural stress test for your heart except you’re not surrounded by conditions such as a cardiologist around you to be in a more monitored setting,” Devanabanda said.

Devanabanda said someone who hasn’t been to the gym in months or rarely does physical labor will put themselves at risk if they immediately try to shovel snow. He advises anyone who has had a heart issue in the past to not shovel snow at all.

If you do need to shovel snow, he said to not overdo it.

“One, be very warm and make sure you’re bundled up and two I would start by doing the shoveling in small increments and taking frequent breaks, going inside, hydrating yourself,” Devanabanda said.

Devanabanda said chest pain, sharp, radiating arm pain, and jaw pain, are all signs and symptoms of a possible heart attack, and the shoveling process should be stopped immediately and medical attention sought.