Doctors warn that as the excitement and anticipation of Super Bowl Sunday rises, so does the risk for heart attack. Historically, cardiac emergencies spike after dramatic games, especially if your team loses. Some doctors are advising viewers to monitor their stress levels to decrease the risk of a heart attack.
“We’ve seen more heart attacks during this time because people get stressed, especially in settings of unhealthy food, salty food, maybe smoking, that’s all a recipe for heart attack,” Dr. Mohammad Habibzadeh, an interventionist cardiologist at Carondelet Health Network, told KOLD.com.
According to a study published in Clinical Cardiology, researchers found that deaths increased after the Super Bowl in the losing city, finding an “absolute increase in all-cause mortality” in people over the age of 65.
“Acute risk factors usually involve some sort of stress — physical, emotional, or both — that increase the sympathetic nervous system and release catecholamines,” they wrote, explaining that this increase could cause the rapid blood flow to remove plaque in the arteries triggering heat attacks or strokes.
Experts warn that binge drinking and eating highly processed foods along with stress can contribute to a heart attack. As you celebrate this game day, doctors say there are several warning signs to look for so you don’t mistake heartburn for a heart attack. These signs include persistent chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, lightheadedness, and nausea.
“If you get chest pains during the game, don’t blame it on the wings or food you had. It could be the real deal,” says Habibzadeh.
But there are steps to take to help prevent a heart attack on Super Bowl Sunday, according to the University of Utah Health Communications:
• Take breaks with the players. Dr. John Ryan, medical director of the Cardiovascular Medicine Unit at University of Utah Health, says that dehydration is a common occurrence before a heart attack. When the players take a water break, join them. Make sure to drink a glass of water before each swig of beer to ensure that you stay hydrated and to reduce alcohol consumption.
• Use timeouts to stop snacking. Super Bowl parties are renowned for mindless eating during the excitement of the game and clever commercials. Use the timeouts to take a break from snacking.
• Choose one healthy snack. This may seem like an oxymoron since Super Bowl food is known for being notoriously unhealthy fare, but you can opt for veggies and dip that you can bring to the party yourself.
• Four quarters means four walks. At the end of each quarter, take a walk to help digest and to burn calories. You can even jog in place with your buddies if you are all in good shape.
• Prepare for both a win and loss. Sports are unpredictable, says Ryan, so be prepared for the unlikely outcome that your team will lose and avoid any rash or emotional outburst. Ryan says that his father sits outside in the garden during rugby games in Ireland. “And then when the game is over, he will come in and ask what the results of the game was. And that’s his way of modifying his risk.”
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