Planning to watch the big game this weekend? If you’re rooting for the Baltimore Ravens (or the San Francisco 49ers), pay attention if your heart starts pumping during a crucial play. There may be a link between the Super Bowl and your heart health. Doctors say the warning signs of a heart attack – dizziness, chest pain, labored breathing, nausea – are similar to symptoms of an adrenaline rush or over-eating.

Several sports studies from around the world have found watching exciting sports events, like the Olympics and the World Cup, can stress the heart and temporarily worsen heart problems.

Another concern is for the fan who doesn’t want to miss a minute of the game. Some hospitals have reported that people who are having heart problems often wait until the game is over before seeking medical attention… and emergency physicians see a surge in visits right after the end of the Super Bowl. If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, do not delay. Call 911 immediately. Every minute of a cardiac event damages heart muscle.

Keep an eye on those Super Bowl snacks, too. Heart health can be improved with diet. We’re not saying skip the chips and dip, but think about adding a fruit and veggie platter and go easy on salty and fatty food. Try placing unhealthy snacks farther away so you have to put in more effort to get to them. Sodium (salt) can cause your body to retain too much fluid, making it harder for your heart to pump. The trans fats in your cheesy nachos or dessert could affect the lining of the arteries, contribute to high cholesterol and increase risk of heart disease.

There are risk factors that we may be born with that increase our risk of developing heart disease, such as:

  • Family history of heart disease
  • Age and menopause
  • Inherited high blood pressure
  • Type I diabetes
  • Race/ethnicity (African American, Latina and Native American women are more likely to have heart disease risk factors.)

That’s why it’s important to control the risk factors we CAN change. These include:

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Being physically inactive
  • Acquired high blood pressure
  • Acquired high cholesterol
  • Type II diabetes

It’s important to have a conversation with your doctor about your heart health. During the Super Bowl – and everyday, really – be sure to take your regular medications as prescribed, eat in moderation, and pay attention to what could be the warning signs of a heart attack or stroke. Don’t delay medical care. The emergency departments at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center, Washington Adventist Hospital and the Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical CenterEmergency Center at Germantown are here for you, 24 hours a day. And go Ravens! Or Niners.