WV Wildlife: Hunters Heart Health

West Virginia's steep terrain presents a challenge to hunters who may not be in good shape. (WCHS/WVAH)

The most popular hunt in our state is just around the corner.

Buck firearms season begins in Late-November, and just thinking about it may cause your pulse to rise.

This fight or flight response is natural, but before you feel that full rush out in the woods, it's probably a good idea to make sure that your body is ready to take that adrenaline on.

"One of the biggest problems that we see during hunting season is cardiac events, heart attacks--problems that occur because the heart's not functioning properly", says Shawn Bastin--Executive Director of Cardiology Services at Cabell Huntington Hospital.

Unfortunately, this is a pretty big problem here in West Virginia and throughout our Appalachian Region. A big hunt can bring these issues to the surface due to several reasons.

“We're probably a little more out of shape, as a hunting group, than what we should be. We don't really challenge, or exercise, our hearts as much as we probably should. The second problem that we see is the excitement of sometime seeing that big deer, or seeing that game, causes your heart rate to increase almost to its maximum level--and if you're not use to that, or not familiar with having your heart race at that level because of the excitement, it can be very stressful to the body. The 3rd component of that that's very challenging is sometimes if we are fortunate enough to get that deer, or to down that big buck, we then have to drag and take that deer out of the woods--and unfortunately, our topography is pretty rough”, says Bastin.

Training year-round is the best way to get your heart ready for the hunt, but if you can't, some exercise leading up to it can help.

"It doesn't really matter what you're doing--whether it's cycling, hiking, swimming--anything that's forcing your heart to exercise in that 60 to 80% of the maximum, and doing that 2 to 3 times a week for about 20 minutes is kind of the understood recipe to be the right number", says Bastin.

If you do go out hunting, make sure to pay close attention to your body, as heart attack symptoms can sometimes be subtle--and try not to hunt alone.

"Could be shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue, sweating, chest pain, pain radiating into your arm. All of these are kind of early warning signs that there may be something going on. We always recommend a partner. At the very least--some form of communication, so that you can get a hold of someone, or let them know where you're going to be, or what time you're expected to be home. It can be lifesaving", says Bastin.

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