By SUSAN CALLAHAN, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
This weekend, once again, it's time for the Super Bowl, that uniquely American clash of muscle and field generalship played in spandex.
Though the game this year has slogged through more than its share of controversy, millions of us will still look forward to what we call The Game. But while most of us will spend hours planning the game-day snacks and parties, few of us will spend anytime preparing for one of the other commonly shared experiences during Superbowl Week --- cardiac events triggered by watching this intense game.
In 2006, a 50-year old man and a Pittsburgh Steeler fan, had a heart attack watching his team fumble the ball late in the game. The man, Terry O'Neill of Pittsburgh, later had a pacemaker implanted to control his irregular heart rate and was prescribed blood pressure medication.
Watching Your Team Stresses Your Heart and Watching Them Lose Is Worse
In 2009, Dr. Robert Kloner of Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles finally connected the dots for all of us. He conducted a study to determine if there were changes in death rates when a local football team participates in the Super Bowl.
What he found is a striking connection between your team's performance and your risk of dying. When Los Angeles loss the 1980 game, total deaths in Los Angeles County increased by 16.8% compared with a normal weekend. The total number of heart attacks (ischemic heart disease) spiked by 19.65%.
Other studies have found that catching your sports team on television can increase your heart rate by 75%. Watching it in person can increase your heart rate by 110%. Clearly, watching your sports team presents a challenge, indeed a serious rick, to your heart's health.
How to Avoid a Heart Attack During the Super Bowl
Preparing to watch your team in the Super Bowl should start days before. First, if your heart is already compromised or if you have a family history of heart attacks or disease, consider skipping the game. Seriously. Here are some other helpful steps:
1. Know your normal heart rate. Know your normal blood pressure. If you are a 20 year old, getting extremely agitated may not push your heart rate into danger zone. if you are over 45 or 50, it may.
2. Take steps to lower your heart rate during the game. Take regular breaks during the game, if you are not in optimal health or over 40. Clear your head for a moment. Breath deeply. Stretch your legs.
3. Avoid salty snacks. Salty snacks immediately raise your blood pressure. Skip the salty nachos. Go fr he no salt air-popped popcorn.
4. Cool out with a glass of red wine. Red wine dilates your blood vessels.
5. Keep drinking water. Water thins out your blood and eases the work load on your heart.