Christian Living

Family Matters 02/03/11

Super Bowl May Prompt Heart Attacks?

Unless you’ve been on a deserted island, you know it is Super Bowl weekend. I admit I am not excited this year. My team didn’t make it. As die-hard Chicago Bears fans, my husband and I are used to our team losing. But I never thought that losing a football game would put us at risk for heart attack! At least not until this week.

If you browsed the Internet, you have probably been informed that watching the Super Bowl is the latest threat to your life! Ominous headlines such as "Football Losses Raise Heart Attack Risk” and “Can Rooting for the Losing Team Kill You?” dominated on-line news.

All the buzz was from a well-timed release of a study in the journal, Clinical Cardiology. The study noted a rise in heart attack deaths in Los Angeles after two Super Bowls were played in the 1980s involving L.A. teams.

The author of the study, Dr. Robert Kloner, professor of cardiology at University of Southern California, told CNN this week that you should be concerned if you develop an emotional tie to your team. Apparently the stress of your team losing a game in the final minutes (especially if you are an older adult), along with downing large quantities of beer and fatty foods can put you at risk for heart attack, if you have the right risk factors. And if you are a woman, cardiac death is even more likely.

OK, that is a lot of ifs.

Why did more women than men die? No answers were given, but theories were postulated. One was that women died from heart attacks because of the way the men in their lives reacted to their team losing! So the anger of men frightened the women to death? Another theory was that women get emotional too. Really?

Just a few more questions came to mind, such as, how did the researchers know which team the people who died supported during the Super Bowls studied? They didn’t. And did those people who died even watch the game? Maybe they hated football. While the researchers controlled for race, age, and gender, it seems like it would have been important to somehow identify the people who died as football fans.

We do know that severe emotional distress can trigger cardiovascular events in people with risk factors. Please note that I am not downplaying chronic and acute risk factors known to trigger heart attacks.  But, linking the Super Bowl to death risk sounds like publicity hype.

So if you are a fan who gets emotional during a game and you have coronary risk factors, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol or smoke, and you guzzle beer like water, eat every fatty food available and never exercise, you may need to take deep breaths and try to remain calm during the game. In fact, you probably should take an aspirin (unless of course you can’t tolerate aspirin or have other medically reasons not to take it), drink water, stop smoking, eat veggies, and exercise before and during the game.

Or simply, enjoy the game and join me as a Chicago Bears Fan!

Promo: Dr. Linda, a long time Bears fan, invites you to sample more of her blogs at www.drlindamintle.com. You can also follow her on Twitter.