Game day stress could have effect on your heart

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - For many sports fans, when they're watching the favorite team, they scream, yell and their hearts start racing. Have you ever wondered if the stress of watching your team in the big game has an effect on your heart?

The short answer, it does, and all the stress can affect your health.

Every sports fan has their favorite team. For Jeff Hunter, it's the Pittsburgh Steelers. Through the team's up and even the team's downs, Hunter says he has been a Steelers fan all his life; but is there such a thing as an unhealthy super fan?

FOX19 wanted to find out. So we hooked up a heart monitor to Jeff while watching the Steelers/Ravens game in this year's playoffs. A big match up could equal a lot of stress for a fan like Jeff. U.C. Health Cardiologist Jack Rubinstein says too much stress on one's heart can be dangerous. "When it was a stressful game, the heart attack rate goes up three-fold. Mostly in men, not so much in women," said Rubinstein.

So what would Jeff's heart rate be while watching the game? The numbers may surprise you.

First, let's learn a little more about Jeff. At 6'1", he is 300 pounds and is a smoker. While watching the game, he had three cigarettes, a plate of chicken wings and one beer.

Jeff's resting heart rate is high, between 90 and 95, but for this story, we'll focus on his active heart rate. Doctors say everyone has a maximum heart rate that they shouldn't exceed; finding that number is easy.

Take the number 220 and subtract your age. Multiply that number by 0.85. So for Jeff, 220 minus 35 times .85, his heart rate should not exceed 157.

We monitored Jeff during the game. After a good Steelers play, Jeff's heart rate is at a healthy 105. But for a Steelers touchdown, Jeff's heart rate jumped into the 120's. Still a healthy heart rate and well below his maximum heart rate level; but that heart rate is nothing compared to when the Steelers clinched the game. Jeff's heart rate spiked at almost 160 beats per minute, leveling off at 153. Those numbers are dangerous for Jeff's heart.

"That is really, really a lot of stress on the heart, and if he is eating all of these fatty food and smoking, he should be nowhere near that number," said Rubinstein.

Dr. Rubinstein looked at the footage of Jeff watching the game and his heart rate. He concluded that Jeff was getting a good workout while watching the game; but for someone who doesn't exercise on a regular basis, that can be dangerous.

"He was going from safe to dangerous, he was kind of in the gray area, where he probably shouldn't be pushing himself, particularly if he is not pushing himself like that on a regular basis," said Rubinstein.

Extreme Bengals fans, cheering at Paul Brown Stadium, should be cautious while cheering in cold temperatures. "There is at least a small risk inherent of being in cold weather, so if you're walking out in cold weather, your risk of having a heart attack is higher than if you were not in cold weather," said Rubinstein.

He says he doesn't see an increase of patients during or after a Bengals game, and the chance of someone having a heart attack from watching a game is low. However, it is important to know your limitations. "Really go out and enjoy your life, have a drink with friends have a good time. But at the end of the day, remember that it is just a game," said Rubinstein.

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