BINGHAMTON, NY – As the snow piles up outside, many Americans are out there shoveling it.

But did you know that snow shoveling can be fatal if you aren’t careful?

According to the American Heart Association, many people face an increased risk for heart attacks or sudden cardiac arrest simply by clearing their driveway.

The AHA also says that each year hundreds of people die from the task.

But what makes it so dangerous?

“Shoveling snow is a very strenuous activity, made even more so by the impact that cold temperatures have on your body, increasing the blood pressure while simultaneously constricting the coronary arteries. It really is a ‘perfect storm’ for acute cardiac events,” said Barry Franklin, a professor of internal medicine at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in Royal Oak, Mich. “Among the many findings of our research, we saw that the cardiac demands of heavy snow shoveling, including marked increases in the heart rate and systolic blood pressure, could equal and exceed the upper levels achieved during maximal treadmill testing in sedentary men. In one study, we found that after only two minutes of snow shoveling, study participants’ heart rates exceeded the upper limit – 85% of maximal heart rate – commonly prescribed for aerobic exercise testing. The least fit subjects demonstrated the highest heart rates during shoveling.”

If you do have to shovel, take breaks and monitor your body for symptoms.

The AHA also suggests using a snow blower so it’s easier on the body.