Jan 30, 2018 12:00 AM

Author: Suzanne Young

Did you know your risk of having a heart attack increases around the time of the Super Bowl? John Ryan, MD, FACC, FAHA, says that people experience an increased risk for heart attacks during the Super Bowl because it is a time when the major risk factors for heart disease occur at the same time, including eating poorly, smoking, drinking alcohol, and dehydration.

According to Ryan, the population already at risk for having a heart attack, as well as those who live in the host city face the greatest risk. While watching the game, stressors are placed on the body while cheering on a team and indulging in fatty, high-caloric food, like wings and beer.

So, how do you decrease your risk for a heart attack and still embrace your sacred Super Bowl traditions? The answer is coping mechanisms.

“It's about stress management and how you deal with stress,” says Ryan.

 He recommends five coping mechanisms for surviving Super Bowl Sunday:

  1. Take breaks with the players. According to Ryan, dehydration is a common occurrence before a heart attack. When the players take a water break, so do you. Make sure you drink water before each swig of beer. This will not only keep you hydrated, but also lower your alcohol intake, decreasing your chance of having a heart attack.
  2. A timeout on the field means time out at the party. With the distraction of friends, knee slapping commercials, and an exciting game, mindless eating can take over. Use each timeout to take a break from snacking.
  3. Choose one healthy snack. Eating healthy may seem impossible at a Super Bowl party, but picking one healthy food to eat with the rest of your Super Bowl feast helps. Throw some veggies and dip on your plate or even go for baked chips.
  4. Four quarters means four walks. At the end of each quarter, get up and walk around the room. Moving around will allow your food to digest so you feel full and avoid overeating.
  5. Prepare for both outcomes. I know you think your team has it in the bag, but sports can be unpredictable. On the off chance that your team loses, create a plan now to cope and avoid any rash behavior. For example, if my team loses I will get up and take a walk outside or I will turn off the TV immediately and call my brother.

Recommendation 5 hits home with Dr. Ryan as he shared his father’s coping mechanism during Ireland rugby games. “My father will sit outside in the garden and then when the game is over, he will come in and ask what the result of the game was. And that's his way of modifying his risk.”

As you prepare to watch the game, remember the five guidelines to modify your risk of having a heart attack and getting the most out of your Super Bowl Sunday.

Suzanne Young

Suzanne Young works in the Office Marketing and Communications.

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