Deer Hunting Can Strain Hearts

Armen Hareyan's picture

Many bag a deer, but along with success comes firearm accidents and tree stand mishaps. Beaumont researchers have identified another hunting danger - the hidden danger of a heart attack among men with risk factors and known heart disease.

Susan Haapaniemi and colleagues from Beaumont Hospital's Cardiac Rehabilitation program were the first to conduct a study on the risk of heart attack from deer hunting. The results were published in August 2007 in the American Journal of Cardiology.

Researchers sent 25 middle-aged male hunters into the woods equipped with heart rate monitors. They found that many hunting activities sent the men's heart soaring to peak heart rates achieved during cardiac stress testing.

"The heart rate of some hunters would almost double upon seeing a deer, even though they were standing totally still," says Haapaniemi an exercise physiologist. "After shooting, gutting and dragging a deer out of the woods the hunters heart rates were well above the maximum."

According to Michigan's Department of Natural Resources nearly 735,000 deer hunting permits were issued for the 2007 deer hunting season (including archery, firearms, muzzleloading seasons).

"Hunting is strenuous and can trigger heart disease in a sedentary male. Exceeding the maximum heart rate for a sustained period places a hunter with hidden or known heart disease at high risk for heart attack," adds Haapaniemi. "The hunters in our study were often unaware of what was happening to their hearts during the hunt."


Cooler weather, bulky hunting equipment, rugged terrain and a hunter's personal lifestyle (smoking, alcohol consumption, fitness level) are other factors accentuating the cardiac risks.
Tips for Healthy Hunting:

# Hunters with known heart disease and those at-risk (family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol) should have physician approval to hunt.

# With physician approval, hunters should begin walking 30 minutes a day 8 to 12 weeks prior to the hunt. Hunters can increase their fitness level by walking or aerobic exercise.

# Refrain from consuming alcohol and smoking the day before or during hunting.

# Refrain from eating a heavy meal before hunting.

# Hunters with heart disease should not drag a deer out of the woods.

# Hunters need to seek immediate medical attention if they experience dizziness, chest pain or heart palpitations.