October 14, 2011, 6:18 PM
SIOUX FALLS, SD -
As pheasant hunting season starts in South Dakota this weekend, the biggest danger some hunters face is not being shot. But hunters are actually three times more likely to suffer a heart attack than a gunshot wound.
That's why the thousands flying into the Sioux Falls Regional Airport who are excited to shoot a few birds should also know how to protect their health.
"First-time hunting pheasants here with my father-in-law," John Boulware of Raleigh, North Carolina said.
Which is why Boulware was surprised to hear that heart attacks are such a threat to hunters. It's something Redfield native Lyle Brown knows all too well.
"I've had carotid surgery, and I've had a heart valve put in," Brown said.
Brown's not worried about his heart health while hunting, though, because he stays physically fit.
"I do my share of walking. I do a lot. I'm just about 80," Brown said.
As hunters head out from the airport to the fields, doctors say people who haven't been physically active should take it a little easier.
"Ideally you should already be walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week. That's the recommendation. But if you haven't been, know your limitation," Avera Heart Hospital Cardiologist Tarek Mahrous said.
Mahrous says two symptoms to watch out for are chest pain and shortness of breath.
"If you just get short of breath, and you're not having chest pain, it's sort of hard to figure out is that the heart or just being out of shape. That's when you have to go back and see, 'is that a new symptom? Have I had this for a while? Is it progressing?'" Mahrous said.
If you are feeling such symptoms, Mahrous says to take an aspirin and stop walking.
"Slow down. Don't try to be a hero, and don't try to do too much. And get in as soon as you can to your doctor," Mahrous said.
Brown says he does get regular checkups, so he's not too concerned. His main focus this weekend will be on celebrating pheasant hunting season with his family from Dallas, Texas.
"We have some relatives born and raised in this country and they come in and hunt ever year. I'm picking them up. They come on the next flight in," Brown said.
Doctor Mahrous says to improve your heart health, you should exercise regularly, check your blood pressure, not smoke, and work to lower your cholesterol.
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