Hunters have a Heart!

We want our site to give readers the experience of being around the campfire with their hunting buddies sharing stories about their trophy’s.

We allow bloggers to share hunting tips and discuss strategy. Thanks to all of our bloggers we are able to feature stories that are both exciting and educational. Sometimes they are light and other times more serious. Another benefit of hosting this blog is the ability to get messages out to people.

This blog post is particularly important and something all hunters should take note of. If you cant relate personally to this, I am sure you know a fellow hunter you should share this with. You could even save their life.

Sitting up north this past spring, as we bantered about how the boat motor must have somehow become heavier over the winter, it was becoming apparent that non of us were getting any younger. Let’s face it, not many of us are running any decathlons these days. As the years pass our lives get busier, work tends to become more demanding and new responsibilities tend to lead us to let our health go by the way side.

Heart disease is a leading cause of death in North America and unfortunately each year I hear several stories about hunters having hear attacks in the field. Some may ignore this but heart disease is a bigger killer than any hunting accident and is something which should be taken seriously by all hunters and hunting organizations alike. Not only is this topic important to you and your family but also gives you a unique opportunity to potentially save the life of someone else.

Patient illustrating the deer drag test while wearing EKG and O2 monitor.
Patient illustrating the deer drag test while wearing EKG and O2 monitor.

Some risk factors, like age, are not modifiable. Yet other predisposing risk factors, like smoking, exercise and diet are manageable. What I am going to talk about here are ways you can help to protect yourself and your hunting buddies from a serious cardiac event happening to them.

First off to prove the relevance of this conversation I direct your attention to following medical article published in the American Journal of Cardiology in 2007.

Electrocardiographic Responses to Deer Hunting Activities in Men With and Without Coronary Artery Disease
Susan Haapaniemi, MS, Barry A. Franklin, PhD*, James H. Wegner, BS, Shelby Hamar, MA, Seymour Gordon, MD, Gerald C. Timmis, MD, and William W. O’Neill, MD
Am J Cardio. 2007;100:175-179

To provide the ‘coles notes’ version of the study, and without getting too technical, the authors simulated the activity of dragging a deer out of the woods while they monitored the heart activities of hunters using EKG devices. They compared this to standard “Stress Testing” which is normally used to assess patients for the presence of ischemic heart disease/coronary artery blockage. They examined these activities in healthy patients and those with known heart disease.

What they found was both surprising and not surprising. Not surprising and something any hunter could have told the researchers, is that the adrenaline elicited by shooting an animal and dragging it out of the woods drives peoples heart rate well above the range recommended for aerobic activity. The surprising finding, and admittedly frightening finding, was that in several of the patients the elevated heart rates resulted in dangerous arrhythmia’s and ischemic changes on the EKGs which put them at high risk for cardiac arrests.

Below is an image borrowed from the study and an example of one patients heart rate plot compared against the recommended heart rate range. Now the majority of patients who had dangerous readings on their heart tracings had known heart disease but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned. I would bet that a quick poll at hunt camp would show that several of our partners are on meds for blood pressure, cholesterol, or lipids; all indicative of some degree of heart disease. At the same time there are probably many of us with silent heart disease yet to be diagnosed.

heart 1

Now I don’t pretend to be an expert nor do I intend to scare anyone with post. I simply want to help raise awareness in the hunting world and encourage hunters to take an active role in their health. So during the off-season while you have some down time make an appointment to see you family doctor or cardiologist.

Below are some questions to ask yourself which could give you some insight into your heart health:
1. Do I smoke?
2. Do I find myself increasingly short of breath with activity?
3. Do I ever get chest pain of any kind at rest/ with activity?
4. Have I noticed worsening head aches or vision changes?
5. How does my weight today compare to that 5/10 years ago?
6. Has someone in my family died from or been diagnosed with heart disease?
7. When was the last time I checked my blood pressure?

If you answered yes to any of these it may be a good idea to check in with your doctor before hunting season. Here are a set of questions you should ask your doctor when you see him.

1. What is my chance of a cardiac event in the next 10 years (frammingham risk score)?
2. What is my fasting blood sugar?
3. Is my cholesterol/lipids at safe levels?
4. Do I need a stress test?
5. Do I need an EKG?
6. Should I take a daily aspirin?
7. What is my blood pressure? (should be <140/90 or <130/85 for diabetics)?

Neither of these lists are comprehensive but will give you a good jumping off point for a conversation with your doctor about your heart health. Again I don’t mean to raise mass hysteria but it is time that we hunters start taking an active role in our heart health. Studies like that mentioned in this blog together with testimonials from other hunters who have been so unfortunate as to have a heart-attack in the bush should prove to highlight the importance of this issue.

I encourage everyone to have a “ticker check” at the top of their preseason checklist this year! Have a great and safe summer everyone and BRING ON DEER SEASON.


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