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(WZZM) - Upto a foot of heavy, wet snow is expected in West Michigan by Friday and shoveling that snow can raise your risk of having a heart attack.

Dr. George Abela of Michigan State University says cold temperatures may play a role. Dr. Abela found that when cholesterol is heated to human body temperature then allowed to slowly cool, cholesterol crystals form along the artery walls, which can lead to a heart attack. Dr. Abela believes there is a correlation between snow shoveling and heart attacks because your body temperature lowers while outside, cooling any cholesterol that might be in your arteries.

"That can expand suddenly and tear up the wall of the artery causing sudden heart attack and stroke which is why it's such an unpredictable and chaotic event," explains Dr. Abela. "We have found that even a shift in one degree centigrade is enough to trigger the process."

Heart disease kills nearly 700,000 Americans every year. Dr. Abela hopes his findings will help prevent the silent killer.

The average shovelful of wet snow weighs 16 to 20 pounds. So for many Americans who are out of shape, shoveling for 10 minutes is like running on a treadmill to the point of exhaustion. To prevent injury follow these tips:

-- Opt for a shovel with an s-shaped handle, which can minimize the chance of back pain.
-- Don't shovel after a large meal.
-- Avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine, which can raise your heart rate and constrict blood vessels.
-- Drink plenty of fluids, since breathing cold air dehydrates the body.
-- Since cold air may also constrict your arteries, dress in layers