LAPEER COUNTY — Deer hunting season has arrived and with that thousands of hunters are headed to the woods to get the biggest buck they can find. But before the big day, the American Heart Association encourages hunters to be heart smart. If last year’s hunting season was the last time you’ve exercised, you may be putting yourself at risk of a heart attack.
An American Heart Association study compared the heart’s workload of an individual deer hunting to that of the same individual exercising on a treadmill and discovered that deer hunting places the heart under more strain. Therefore, hunters need to be heart smart.
Preparing early not only helps with physical fitness come deer season, but also with overall general health. Studies show that being physically fit lowers heart disease risk even in people who have other risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol. The American Heart Association has several online tools that can help with your conditioning. First visit www.mylifecheck.org to find out your heart score before you head to the woods.
“Hunting puts strain on your body, so you need to be prepared and know what your body can handle,” stated Dr. Scott Martin, cardiologist at Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw. “Hunters can easily carry 50 pounds worth of gear, put that on top of a big buck and you can end up carrying a few hundred pounds out of the woods. If your body isn’t ready for that, you’re putting it under serious strain.”
Lane Walker, an elementary principal and author of Hometown-Hunters books, is an American Heart Association volunteer and an avid outdoorsman. “Every year I take the time to make sure my bow and gun is ready, but I never thought about my heart being ready for the hunt.”
Most hunters don’t think about their heart health before heading to the woods. After all, according to the American Heart Association majority of adults believe they are in better health than they actually are. In fact, less than one percent of American adults have an ideal health profile.
This was true for Walker also. After taking the My Life Check quiz he found his score was lower than he wanted so he started making changes. More walks in the woods with his three little girls and a little less sugar. “Although hunting is my passion, making sure I come back home is the most important thing obviously. A few more walks and a few less calories are some easy changes that can make a big difference.”
Other differences you can make to be sure your heart is ready for the hunt, include:
• Visit your doctor before opening day to get a clean bill of health
• Cut out that heavy breakfast before heading out into the woods
• Avoid hunting alone
• Bring a cell phone to reach emergency services if needed
• Tell friends or family your location and scheduled return
Also, make sensible plans for moving any game taken. Get help from friends and family members to haul in your trophy buck.
Warning signs of a heart attack are:
• an uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing,
• pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back again.
• pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck and arms and is often accompanied by lightheadedness, sweating, nausea and shortness of breath.
Stroke signs include:
• a sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg
• sudden dizziness and loss of coordination
• slurred speech
• severe headache
Heart attack and stroke are medical emergencies and 911 needs to be accessed immediately. Remember part of your hunter safety includes being heart smart. Details: www.heart.org