Hunting and Heart Health

A cardiologist at the Methodist Hospital's DeBakey Heart Center says getting shot accidentally isn't the only danger hunters might encounter, especially deer hunters. He says hunters also need to make sure their hearts are ready for the trip. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell explains why.

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Methodist Hospital Cardiologist Dr. Douglas Bree is an avid deer hunter himself, and he knows how strenuous hunting is, personally and professionally.ξ It's not something to take lightly.

"There's a recent study that came out where they had hunters wear cardiac monitors, and they found that the heart rate response during normal hunting activity was pretty similar to what patients undergo when they're doing treadmill exercise tests."

And that's just the hike from the truck out to the deer stand, loaded down with all the stuff a hunter needs. Then there's the adrenaline rush hunters always have when they spot a deer. Their pulse rate and blood pressure increase dramatically.

"When that big buck comes along, you know your heart literally starts pounding, and your blood pressure goes up, and then if you're lucky enough to bag a buck, you know a lot of people will try to field dress and drag the buck back on their own, which is a pretty big strain physically."

Bree says these stresses are no problem for a healthy person, but they can be deadly for someone with heart disease or its risk factors. People with bad hearts have died while hunting, and Bree knows about that from personal experience because it happened in his family. He says one of his uncles had all the risk factors for heart disease, and died of cardiac arrest while hunting pheasant. Bree says hunting is as strenuous as an exercise program, and that's why people should see a doctor first, and find out if their heart is up to a hunting trip.ξ

"Lastly I would say don't ignore symptoms. In other words, if you're struggling dragging that buck back to your truck, and you're having chest discomfort, stop.ξ You have to stop and call for help."

If they have a cell-phone of course. Bree says every smart hunter should always have a cell-phone or some kind of communication deviced with them, because they never know when they might need one.ξ He says it's also a good idea to never go hunting alone. Always go with at least one hunting partner. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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