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Deer season heart attacks

November 12, 2012
The Daily News

The orange army will be deployed to Upper Peninsula woods and forestlands in just a few days.

Hunters have their guns sighted, and they're getting their camps ready for two weeks of camp life.

But aren't we forgetting something?

Too many hunters getting ready for the gun-deer season take better care of their trucks, rifles and camps than they do of themselves.

Hunters should pay as much attention to their physical condition as to their gear.

Hunting can be hazardous to a hunter's health if he already had an underlying heart condition.

They move around in the cold, tramp through the woods and sometimes climb steep grades.

All of this can make the heart work extra hard.

Merely seeing a deer can cause a hunter's heart rate to more than double, researchers say.

And dragging that 200-pound buck back to camp can be a real strain on the hearts.

There are no solid statistics on heart attacks and hunting, but every year, news stories report of hunter deaths in the woods due to heart failure.

The beer and cigars with poker, and steak-and-egg breakfasts probably don't help much either.

As a prelude to hunting season, two Mayo Clinic specialists recently examined 20 hunters to see if their hearts are safe for hunting.

The medical staff gave hunters a physical exam, tested the hunters' cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, lung capacity and ran them through a stress test on a treadmill.

Hunters also filled out a health-risk questionnaire about smoking and other health habits, and medical histories.

Surprise, surprise. Three of the hunters who came in for the hunter's exam failed the test and were referred to cardiologists for additional consultations.

If that's an average, there are a lot of hunters out there who are at risk of having a heart attack this deer season.

The regular season starts on Thursday, Nov. 15, in Michigan and on Saturday, Nov. 17, in Wisconsin. Hunters should schedule a check-up before they head into the woods.

Medical experts also offer the following advice:

- Remember to tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.

- Take a cell phone and make sure the phone is within range of the tower, or wear a plastic whistle around your neck.

- Dress in layers so that you can remove clothing when you start to warm up. Clothing gets damp from perspiration after exertion, and wet layers pull away body heat. Use "wicking" underclothes so the layer next to your sin is dry and you don't become hypothermic.

- Take along water so you don't become dehydrated.

- Take things at a comfortable pace - rest for a spell if you feel the slightest bit tired.

- Get help to drag a deer out of the field to your camp or vehicle.

- Stop what you're doing and get medical help if you experience any of warning signs of heart problems.

- 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; and severe headache.

Both heart attack and stroke are medical emergencies and 911 needs to be accessed immediately.

Men between the ages of 40 and 50 should get a check-up every other year, and should get an annual physical after they've turned 50.

Women should have a yearly physical and a mammogram after age 40.

Take it easy and enjoy the hunt.



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