heart 463104065 682x408

PREVENT

If your heart is with the Minnesota Vikings, it may be pounding through the playoffs

The final minutes of the Minnesota Vikings' winning game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, Jan. 14, were so heart pounding that a few fans reported receiving warnings from their smart watches about their elevated heart rates.

The watches detected an irregular spike in heart rate during a period of "inactivity," which can be a precursor to a heart attack. In other words, the person wearing the watch wasn't moving much but their heart was racing.

Why was this happening? Exercise isn't the only thing that can make your heart beat faster. Some Vikings fans' hearts were thumping over the emotional stress of a nail-biting, playoff game.  

Emotional stressors can cause your nervous system to send a message to your body and heart that it needs to prepare for action just as it would if it sensed a physical threat. It's the same response that would have kicked in when early man encountered a dangerous animal, like a lion.

Even when there is no physical danger, emotional stressors can cause the fight or flight response to kick in. Your heart rate increases. Your heart beats harder. You may sweat or feel light headed. And it's all because your nervous system is telling your body that you need more blood, oxygen and energy to deal with whatever is causing the stress.  

It's possible that a strong emotional response to a sporting event could actually put you at greater risk for a heart attack. One study conducted in Germany during the 2006 World Cup soccer games found that German fans were at an increased risk of a heart attack during games played by the German team. However, other studies on sports spectators have not shown a similar connection, suggesting the overall risk is small.  

If after you calm down from the excitement of a game, you are having chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, jaw or shoulder pain, or other concerning symptoms, then you should be concerned that your heart may be having trouble with blood flow. If this happens, seek immediate medical attention.

However, in most cases, if your heart is pounding and your palms are sweaty during an exciting game, just enjoy it while it lasts.  

Speaking from experience as a tried-and-true Vikings fan, I can't say whether being a sports fan is necessarily good or bad for your overall health. But I do think that being active and engaged in activities you love, including sports, is great for your overall health and sense of well-being.

And if you're concerned about your heart health, talk with your doctor and consider heart disease prevention measures, such as regular exercise, a heart-healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, refraining from smoking, getting enough sleep, having regular health screenings and managing your overall stress (not just on game day).

SKOL Vikings!

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Share this article

MORE LIKE THIS

Tools to take charge of your heart health

Continue reading

EMPOWER YOURSELF


Get fun, inspiring, provider-reviewed articles sent to your inbox.

Sign up for our email newsletter