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Don't gamble with your heart during the Super Bowl

Consumer Reports News: February 01, 2008 10:54 AM

What is it about sporting events like the Super Bowl that turn even the most docile couch potato into a screaming, wildly gesticulating lunatic?  A subject that has long served as comedic fodder for sitcoms and hidden camera exposes has suddenly become deadly serious.  A new study released in the January 31st issue of the New England Journal of Medicine highlights the potential harm to the heart that can be caused by watching an intense and stressful sporting event.

Researchers in Germany analyzed the number of cardiovascular emergencies that occurred among German citizens during the World Cup soccer games in 2006 when their home team was playing and found that the fans experienced twice the number of heart attacks and other cardiac problems, especially within the first two hours of the soccer match.  Men with a history of heart disease were at highest risk.

As if that’s not bad enough, a University of Maryland study presented by Dr. David Jerrard at the American College of Emergency Physicians in 2006, found that there were 50 percent more visits to emergency rooms by men after professional football games than during the games over the three-year period examined.  This came on the heels of a previous study by the same investigator showing that men’s visits to emergency rooms declined during games. 

Not only are men at risk, they delay getting proper medical care so they can finish watching the fourth quarter!

Although triggers were not examined in these studies, Anthony G. Alessi, MD, ringside physician for the Connecticut State Boxing Commission points out that fans who don’t want to give up their seat at a match often skip the diuretic prescribed to control their blood pressure, to avoid having to take a bathroom break. This raises their risk for both heart attack and stroke enough to cause casinos, where boxing events are held, to keep large numbers of defibrillators throughout the house and have three teams of paramedics strategically placed and on alert at all times.

So, whether you’re rooting for the New England Patriots or the New York Giants, take heed:

  • Avoid overeating, especially junk food
  • Watch the alcohol
  • Don’t smoke
  • Take your prescribed medication
  • Try to relax
  • Reduce your stress…don’t bet on the games
  • And above all else, don’t bet on your life—if you experience chest pain or shortness of breath, ACT IN TIME!

—Dr. Orly Avitzur, Medical Adviser, Consumer Reports

See how Super Bowl snacks stack up in our chip ratings.

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