Hunting and heart attacks

    Because of a rainy start, deer season is just getting into high gear in Pennsylvania. But the prey aren’t the only ones at risk out there.

    Because of a rainy start, deer season is just getting into high gear in Pennsylvania. But the prey aren’t the only ones at risk out there.

    Listen:

    [audio:091204kghunt.mp3]

    Every year, hunters get hurt or killed from accidental gun shots and falling out of trees. In 2008, three people died and 32 were injured from gun-related hunting incidents in Pennsylvania.

    Heart attacks also claim a number of hunters but precise statistics aren’t known.

    Paul Lyons is a professor at Temple University School of Medicine. He says hunting can put a strain on the heart.

    Lyons: It often involves walking considerable distances, some hunting involves climbing up in trees and that sort of thing, so it’s actually quite a physical strain for someone whose heart may not have had that kind of exercise before the hunting season started.

    Susan Haapaniemi is an exercise physiologist at a hospital in Michigan. A few years ago she strapped heart monitors on 25 hunters and found hunting taxes the heart more than she expected.

    Happeniemi: There’s a component that’s involved with deer hunting that’s not seen with other activities, and that’s this catecholamine-adrenaline surge. So just sitting still in a blind and seeing a deer could cause heart rates to go up above 100% that you could attain on a stress test.

    Joe Kosack is the wildlife conservation education specialist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

    Kosack: More often than not it’s just that physical exertion that’s involved in hunting. Sometimes you have to walk up a mountain to hunt, sometimes you’re carrying a big pack of gear in with you, or sometimes you’re carrying that deer out and all of those can play a factor in having a heart attack if you’re heart muscle is not in good condition.

    Haapeniemi says strenuous exercise often precipitates heart attacks, and hunters should train for the season like any other physical sport.

    So far this season, the handful of injured hunters in Pennsylvania all suffered accidental gun shots.

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