Hunting may be the most demanding physical exertion some hunters experience all year. Studies show that the excitement of sighting a deer can send a hunter’s heart rate soaring. This excitement, combined with strenuous hunting activity, can put a physically unfit hunter at risk of a heart attack.
“Dragging a heavy deer through the snow or brush can be exceptionally stressful on the heart,” says Dr. Derrick Woodward, a family physician at Mayo Clinic Health System.
A heart attack does not always produce a giant, immobilizing pain or a sharp stabbing pain. The body signals that the heart is starving for oxygen by sending warning signals like uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest for more than two minutes.
Additional signs can include chest pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck or arms as well as dizziness, fainting, sweating, nausea and shortness of breath.
Sometimes, these signals may subside only to return later, possibly with greater discomfort and danger. The American Heart Association recommends that anyone experiencing chest pain and discomfort for two minutes or more should call 911 or go to a hospital immediately.
“Don’t worry about a false alarm,” says Dr. Woodward. “Just get to the hospital. Reacting quickly could save your life, as you have only a couple of hours to save that heart muscle.”
Dr. Woodward advises to take heed of any warning signal, and act immediately. He also recommends finding out which hospitals provide 24-hour service in the area you will be hunting before your trip and selecting the nearest facility in advance, so there will be no delay in finding a hospital. Another tip is to inform your family and friends, so they know where to go in case of an emergency.
Smoking, family history, diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol can all cause a heart attack. Now is the best time to get a checkup from your doctor so you know if you’re ready and what you can do to prepare. In addition to giving you a heart risk assessment, physicians also can give advice on exercise programs to get you ready for dragging out a buck.
Being prepared is the best bet for a safe and successful hunting season. A quick and easy checkup can get you ready for the voyage and could save your life.