Can Saints Football Game Stress Impact Your Heart Health?

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As each week passes with another Saints victory, the stakes are getting higher—and so are our stress levels. Think about the last time you watched a game…was your heart pounding?

Can the stress you feel during a Saints football game be bad for your heart?

Studies have shown that participants watching games at the stadium have higher average heart rate increases depending on how stressful the game was. The outcome of the game or allegiance to the team were not really factors. Instead, it was the frequency and intensity of high stakes moments. In other words, the more “high stakes” moments in the game, the faster someone’s heart would beat.

To put it in perspective, the heart rate increases were equivalent to the increases seen in moderate exercise and some of the heart rate spikes seen were even consistent with high intensity exercise.

What are normal symptoms of stress vs. something more serious?

When you feel your heart racing, that is adrenaline in your bloodstream, which increases your heart rate and blood pressure. It’s important to distinguish between normal indicators of stress and more serious symptoms.

Red flag symptoms to watch out for in high stress situations include:

Severe chest pain

Headache

Dizziness/lightheadedness

Palpitations

Remember – if any of these symptoms occur, especially if they persist, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Are there certain risk factors fans should be aware of? What are the potential complications of this type of stress?

If you have preexisting heart and/or vascular disease, a stressful event could be a trigger for something more serious. Complications of emotional stress can temporarily increase markers of inflammation in the bloodstream and can cause the tightening of blood vessels. This not only impacts the heart, but the entire body. Severe emotional stress can also lead to a weakening of the heart or Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy. However, with appropriate time and medical care this weakening is usually resolved.

Looking for a cardiologist? Schedule online with Dr. Samy Abdelghani or visit ochsner.org/heart

Any health benefits?

It’s not all bad news! There is nothing like the joy of watching the Saints win with your family and friends. Happiness has been proven time and time again to be beneficial to your health and there is nothing that makes people in Louisiana happier than seeing a Black and Gold victory.

Watching a Saints game is a great opportunity to get together and spend quality time with your family and friends. Here’s a few ways to turn your football fandom into a heart healthy activity:

Viewing parties and trips to the Superdome are usually filled with good company—and even better food. Try out some heart healthy recipes, especially those that include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts and limit red meat and excessive sodium.

Walk to the Superdome from your car if you’re lucky enough to have tickets.

If you are watching at home, start a routine where you play fun halftime games or go on a post-game stroll to recap the action and digest your food.

Watching sports can absolutely increase your overall happiness and quality of life, despite coming with some risk. Do what makes you happy, but if you have any concerns, please consult with your physician. Geaux Saints!

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