Studies have linked the weeks following the Super Bowl to increased risk of heart attacks among sports fans—especially those fans whose team loses the big game.
Research published in the journal Clinical Cardiology suggests that the emotional stress fans feel after a loss may trigger fatal heart attacks, especially for people who already suffer from heart disease.
“The Super Bowl has become a defacto holiday in the U.S.,” Dr. Simon Rego, the head of the stress and anxiety center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, told Fox News. “It’s got one hundred and ten million people estimated that’s going to watch it, and so much gets wrapped into it with the office pools, and with the friendly or not-so-friendly competition, fantasy sports leagues, recreational activities—I think there’s an intensity that comes with that level of involvement in the game and the process around the game now.”
At moderate levels, Rego explained, stress can actually be a good thing. It can motivate people to pay more attention, take action, and concentrate on areas where we need to perform. However, the situation gets a bit trickier when we start to feel stress over outcomes we cannot control.
“You’re almost speaking as if the people are playing the game, and that’s where it gets a little bit difficult,” Rego said. “Because we’re not actually in the game - we’re watching the game, and a line starts to get blurred. And then the closer you get to actually feeling like you’re in the game, you can start to feel the effects of being overly stressed.”
This stress can be aggravated by common game-related past times, such as trash-talking and snacking. Throwing insults back and forth with fans of the opposing team can cause a jump in heart rate and blood pressure, while munching on fried, greasy finger foods can take its own toll on the body.
“The more you’re loading your system with those foods the more you could end up suffering from the gastrula or stomach stress along the way,” Rego said. “And stress plays on the stomach as it does on the heart and the breathing. So the foods you’re eating which are impacting your stomach, plus the stress level that rises if you’re more invested in the game, can really leave you with that one-two punch and leave you vulnerable to feeling nauseous and stomach illnesses along the way.”
The most important thing to remember while watching the game, Rego said, is that it’s just that—a game.
“Even the players at some point have to except that what’s going to unfold in front of them is going to unfold in front of them and treat it like a business,” Rego said. “Although they are invested in it, they know that there will be a new game and new season next year, and the more you treat this like the be-all, end-all, the more you’ll be cognitively invested in it, and the more likely you are to get stressed if the outcome isn’t going your way.”
“So if you can accept that it’s a game, and it’s fine and perfectly reasonable to be enjoying the moment, to be invested in the process of the game regardless of the outcome you can really make it a fun event for yourself,” he concluded.
So have a safe and enjoyable Super Bowl. And if you’re a Patriots fan, you may want to invest in some antacids.