By Sheriff Jim Wilson, Shooting Illustrated
Let me begin by saying that I’m not a doctor and have never even played one on TV. But it doesn’t take a medical degree to understand the great amount of stress that a criminal attack can place on your heart and what you can do about it.
When we get in the so-called fight-or-flight mode, our body thinks we might be about to be hurt and lose blood. So our brain calls down to the boiler room (heart) and gives the order to kick production into high gear to replace what might be about to be lost. This can put a lot of stress on the body. Unless a person has actually been in a fight for his life, it is difficult to imagine the exact amount of stress that we are talking about. Trust me, it’s a lot and can even bring on a heart attack.
Fortunately, there are a couple of things that we can do to combat this extreme increase in blood pressure and the effect it can have on our performance and our ability to survive. Unfortunately, just saying that you are not going to have a heart attack is not one of the solutions.
To begin with, we can avoid severe stress by preparing for the likelihood of a criminal attack. This is one of the main reasons that we take the time and expense to get good training. Then we make the time to practice what we have learned. Developing some confidence in our defensive abilities helps us to stay calm, deal with the problem, and keep our stress level within manageable boundaries.
Training, practice and planning helps us to avoid blind panic. When we have been tripping along in La-La Land, everything looks beautiful and peaceful until evil jumps right into our faces. This is what we should avoid at all costs. Instead of panicking, it is far better to be in a mental state where we can say, “They told me that this might happen and I know just what to do about it.”
That attitude comes from honing your skills. And it will also keep your heart rate down to manageable levels.
It also helps immensely if a defensive shooter is in good physical condition. I am not talking about being in the kind of shape that will allow you to win a marathon—although there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But getting some sort of regular exercise and dumping a little excess weight can keep the heart healthier and keep it from exploding when the crisis hits. Regular walking and trips to the gym are a good thing. Of course, check with your doctor if you have any concerns about your own situation.
Let’s be clear about this: a criminal attack is an extremely traumatic experience and it can, in fact, create the kind of stress that leads to a heart attack. Being properly trained and in good physical condition are the two things most likely to get you through it successfully.
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