• Heart attacks can happen while hunting

hunting tree stand in a forest

It’s still dark outside. It’s the perfect day to get together with good friends, reflect on life, walk the countryside and bring home that trophy buck or prize pheasant. You’re fully prepared this year. Your scope is right on. You’ve scouted out the perfect spot for your stand, and you’ve been punching paper targets for months. But is your body ready?

Like any sport, hunting requires participants to train, focus, and be mentally and physically fit for the activity required. When hunters aren’t in shape, their trips sometimes can end in tragedy. Hunting may be the most demanding physical exertion some hunters experience all year.

“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.

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.

“Knowing the warning signs of a heart attack can help alleviate the severity of the attack,” says Dr. Woodward. “Many people fail to recognize a heart attack, because the symptoms can be vague and easy to pass off as a less serious problem. Knowing the signs allows you to act fast.”

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 these warning signals:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest for more than two minutes
  • Chest pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck or arms
  • 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:

  • Find out which hospitals provide 24-hour service in the area you will be hunting before your trip.
  • Select the nearest facility in advance, so there will be no delay in finding a hospital.
  • Inform your family and friends, so they know where to go in case of an emergency.

Smoking, family history, diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol all can 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.

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