Beware 'big game' heart attack - especially those already with heart risks, researchers say

Danger especially high in stadium or arena, and peak moments, like overtime
Cardiologists across the Delaware and Lehigh valleys will be watching the NFC Championship Game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings closely.

Not just for the game outcome, but to figure how many cases to expect Sunday, and in following days.

A growing body of research links big sporting events with surges in cardiovascular incidents, like heart attacks and heart failure episodes.

The most recent, published last year in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, studied ice hockey, and fans watching a Montreal Canadiens game.

Researchers took the pulse of fans during an ice hockey game and found that on average, their heart rate increased by 75 percent when watching on TV, and by a whopping 110 percent - the equivalent to the cardiac stress with vigorous exercise - when watching in person.

And a 2008 study in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that "viewing a stressful soccer match more than doubles the risk of an acute cardiovascular event."

The NEJM study showed heart attacks (and related problems, like irregular heartbeats) among the 4,279 German patients in the study.

During six of Germany's seven World Cup matches in 2006, many more heart problems were reported than at the same time in previous years.
It all depends how invested a fan is in their team.

In 2005, when the Eagles were in the Super Bowl - and lost - Dr. Vincent Figueredo, Einstein Medical Center's chief of cardiology, noted a higher rate of heart failure admissions, compared to other years.

Studies show fans are more vulnerable if they already have heart disease, or risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes.

Studies of Dutch men and women showed a boost in heart incidents among men, but less among women, during soccer matches involving their national team.

If you have heart risks, drink in moderation, limit your fatty foods, and take breaks - go outside, or take a half-time walk - to reduce your stress.

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