(CBS) — At least 18 people across the Chicago area died this past winter from causes related to shoveling snow last winter.

With a major snowfall occurring, NorthShore University HealthSystem cardiovascular surgeon Hyde Russell suggests that when your walkway needs clearing, remember the acronym HEART.

  • Hydrate. Make sure to drink plenty of water before and during snow shoveling.
  • Equip yourself. Choose a shovel with the right weight for you. Pick one that is lightweight and easy on your back.
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine. The stimulants raise your heart rate and cause your blood vessels to constrict.
  • Retain body heat. Keep warm, but be careful not to overheat.
  • Take time to listen. Listening to your body is the best thing you can do while performing any exercise.

Take chest pain seriously, Russell says.

“If it goes away, you should probably just not go back to doing that activity and get checked out at some convenient time. If the pain persists, then you got to go on in to the hospital,” the physician says.