Advertisement

Can watching sports increase my risk of heart attack?

Nancy M. Simpkins, MD
Internal Medicine
The actual excitement from rooting on a sports team can cause elevated blood pressure and heart rate. Unless you are at serious risk of an acute cardiac event (discuss that with your doctor), watching and rooting for sports, and the mild elevation of heart rate and blood pressure, should be ok.
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
Watching sports can stress the heart. But that doesn't mean you need to stop. Several studies suggest that watching exciting sports events can worsen heart problems, at least temporarily. A study from China presented at the most recent American Heart Association meeting showed that men who had suffered heart attacks were more likely to show signs of reduced blood flow to the heart (ischemia) and activated blood clotting when they were watching exciting Olympic events instead of other entertainment programs. Spikes in heart attack rates have been seen in soccer fans after World Cup matches or penalty shoot-outs.

Another issue is that people who are having heart problems often wait until the game is over before going to the hospital for evaluation. Physicians who work in emergency departments always expect a surge in visits right after the end of the Super Bowl and other huge sporting events. Some of those folks come in with heart attacks that have caused more damage than they should have because they delayed seeking help right away. It's conceivable that some people don't reach the hospital alive because they delayed calling 911 while awaiting the outcome of the game.

My advice: Go ahead and watch the game, but be sure you take your medications as usual that day. Go easy on the amount of salty food and alcohol you consume. If you have any chest pressure, shortness of breath, or lightheadedness, get to the emergency department without delay. And if you are getting upset because your team is losing, close your eyes, breathe slowly, and say over and over, "Wait till next year. Wait till next year."
Harvard Medical School Heart Disease: A guide to preventing and treating coronary artery disease

More About this Book

Harvard Medical School Heart Disease: A guide to preventing and treating coronary artery disease

Most people who develop heart disease at least 8 in every 10 have one or more major risk factors that are within their power to change. These include lack of exercise, high blood pressure, and...

Continue Learning about Heart Attack

Bob Harper on Surviving a Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest
Bob Harper on Surviving a Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest
Medically reviewed in September 2018.
Read More
How soon after a heart attack can I see a dentist?
Dr. Saeed Payvar, MDDr. Saeed Payvar, MD
In this video, Saeed Payvar, MD, from West Valley Cardiology Services, says there's a possible link ...
More Answers
7 At-Home Strategies for Heart Attack Recovery
7 At-Home Strategies for Heart Attack Recovery7 At-Home Strategies for Heart Attack Recovery7 At-Home Strategies for Heart Attack Recovery7 At-Home Strategies for Heart Attack Recovery
Start by taking your meds and making your appointments.
Start Slideshow
Top 5 Heart Attack Signs in Women
Top 5 Heart Attack Signs in Women

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.