Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.See all posts »
Heart Health and the Super Bowl Effect
In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2008, Dr. Ute Wilbert-Lampen and his colleagues examined the relationship between emotional stress related to soccer’s World Cup and the incidence of heart emergencies during the period of time the games were played. Needless to say, German soccer buffs are arguably as rabid, if not more so, than American football fans. When their countrymen were competing, German men experienced more than three times as many life-threatening cardiac events as would be expected on a typical day. Women weren't too far behind, with nearly twice as many heart emergencies as usual.
When the researchers broke down the factors that seemed to trigger all these heart problems, they found that the issue was not so much the outcome of the game—although that was important—but rather the tension and excitement associated with a very close match. They also pointed to a slew of high risk behaviors associated with game day, including overeating, junk food, smoking, and binge drinking.
The take-home message? Have fun, enjoy the game, but don’t take it so seriously. If you’re watching the game at home, set out some healthy snacks, drink at least as much water as alcohol, and try to get outside for a quick walk during half-time. Above all, don’t take it so seriously. In the end, it’s just a game.
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