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News Updates from the Texas Heart Institute

Super Bowl Caution on Heart Health

HOUSTON, TX. (Feb. 3, 2011) –  Physicians at the Texas Heart Institute (THI) at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital repeated cautions this week about how high-stakes sports events like this weekend's annual Super Bowl can pose health risks, particularly for people with heart disease.  

"Yes, it's a story that gets kicked around each year during Super Bowl time, but there's medical truth in it," said Dr. Neil Strickman. "The combination of overeating, overdoing alcoholic consumption, being too sedentary, and even the emotional stress  and sometimes anger over the big game for some people can contribute to or trigger heart events."  

"Overeating, overdoing alcoholic consumption, being too sedentary, and even emotional stress ... can contribute to or trigger heart events."
— Dr. Neil Strickman
 Neil E. Strickman, MD, FACC, FACP

The warning is borne out by research conducted by a University of Southern California research team and just published online in the journal Clinical Cardiology. A team led by principal author Dr. Robert A. Kloner looked at cardiac-related mortality data surrounding two previous Super Bowl games: the first in 1980, when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Los Angeles Rams; and the second in 1984, when the Los Angeles Raiders beat the Washington Redskins.

The 1980 dramatic loss by the Rams was linked to a 15 percent rise in all circulatory deaths among men living in the Los Angeles area. Among women, the hike amounted to 27 percent.

The bump was more pronounced among older Los Angeles County residents than younger ones. Overall, older fans experienced a 22 percent bump in circulatory deaths, the investigators found.

By contrast, the 1984 Los Angeles Raiders' win was linked to a drop in cardiac-related death rates in both older people and female fans in the area, indicating an element of high emotion as a risk factor.  

Acute mental stress combined with high-risk behaviors can collectively increase neuroendocrine responses, the researchers reported.

The research follows the path of another study conducted in Germany during 2006 when that country hosted the World Cup soccer tournament. The month-long period encompassing the World Cup was compared to corresponding dates in 2003 and 2005. On the days that the German team played a match incidences of cardiac emergencies surged. The largest increase was noted in the two hour period after the start of the matches. The study also found that the increase was more pronounced in men than in women and among known heart patients.

Researchers also noted that the two games with the largest increases in cardiac events "featured a victorious, dramatic shoot-out and high-stakes defeat in which the German team failed to reach the final match."

"The key to all of this, no matter who you're rooting for, is to be aware and be prepared by modifying your high-risk behavior and seeking appropriate medical care, and have your medications on hand if you already know you have a heart condition," said THI's Dr. Strickman.  "We want you around for next year's big game too."

For media inquiries please contact:
Texas Heart Institute
Frank Michel  ♦  832-355-9510

For THI and St. Luke's media profiles, see Public Affairs.

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