OSCEOLA COUNTY — A heavy blanket of snow has fallen over Osceola County and the surrounding area, meaning residents are bundling up to head out to shovel sidewalks and driveways.

When stomping into snow boots and zipping into the many layers needed to keep warm, officials have a few safety tips to keep in mind.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cold weather puts extra strain on the heart. Residents with heart disease or high blood pressure should follow their doctor’s advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold. Those without a restriction from their doctor should dress warmly and work slowly.

“Remember, your body is already working hard just to stay warm,” the CDC’s website says. “Don’t overdo it.”

The Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA) also has suggestions for staying safe while shoveling, including staying ahead of the snow, wearing breathable layers, stretching and drinking plenty of water.

To prevent snow and ice from adhering to the sidewalk or street, clear the snow every few inches instead of waiting for the snow to stop falling before heading outdoors, the SIMA website says. When a resident does brave the cold, SIMA suggests wearing loose layers that can be removed if necessary.

“Avoid wearing heavy wools, man-made materials or other materials that don’t allow perspiration to evaporate,” the site says. “Better choices are cotton and silk.

“Wear quality outdoor winter gear, such as waterproof boots with good traction. Good traction is critical to ensuring that you don’t slip and fall.”

Before taking on the possibly daunting task of shoveling a passable path, SIMA recommends taking a few moments to stretch and warm up the muscles. Stretching can help prevent injury or fatigue.

“Anytime we begin a physical activity, we should start with mild warm-up,” said Dr. Justin Houseman of Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital.

Houseman said physical activity can be linked to heart attacks, such as shoveling in the winter or raking in the fall. If a person shows any signs of heart attack, including pain or discomfort in the chest, arm or shoulder or lightheadedness, they should stop the activity quickly and contact healthcare officials.

After retrieving the shovel and finishing stretches, SIMA suggests individuals should push the snow instead of lift. While shoveling, a person should take frequent breaks, stay hydrated and should pay close attention to the road.

“Sometimes people get so focused on the task at hand they don’t pay attention to their surroundings,” the website says. “When shoveling snow near streets, pay attention to the traffic since vehicles may not have good traction in the snow and ice.”

SIMA also recommends keeping a phone nearby to be able to make a call in event of an emergency.