Here’s how watching hockey could be harming your heart

Here’s how watching hockey could be harming your heart

Many would argue that hockey is the most exciting sport to watch. Your heart might very likely agree.

That’s because recent research in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology suggests watching hockey can more than double your heart rate.

Past research has found that those with coronary artery disease are more likely to experience cardiac events from watching sports. But the latest research is the first of its kind to analyze how watching hockey affects heart rate.

Twenty men and women without heart conditions wore a Holter monitor while they watched the sport. Researchers noted a heart rate increase of 75 percent when participants watched hockey on television and a 110 percent increase when they watched in person.

Participants’ heart rates were elevated during scoring opportunities throughout the game as well as in overtime. As such, researchers determined that the outcome of the game doesn’t primarily determine “the intensity of the emotional stress response, but rather, the excitement experienced with viewing high-stakes or high-intensity portions of the game.”

“Emotional stress is a known trigger for cardiac events, including heart attacks and arrhythmias,” says Dr. Cash Casey, a cardiologist on staff at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill. “This study is interesting in that it focuses on spectators, both on t.v. and live, of one sport. Generally, people with preexisting cardiac conditions – whether known or undiagnosed – are going to be the ones who could have a cardiac event due to the emotional stress of watching an intense sport. Arrhythmia is known to be set off, but adrenaline surges in some cases. The person would have to have a preexisting condition or predisposition to arrhythmia, and the emotional stress could trigger an episode. The same goes for angina (heart pain) or myocardial infarction (heart attack).”

Dr. Casey says people will often report symptoms of palpitations or skipped heart beats when they experience emotional stress.

“This could be a normal symptom, not related to the heart, or it could be a symptom of an irregular heart beat or arrhythmia.”

So what’s the breakaway takeaway?

“This research raises public awareness about how emotional stress can trigger adrenaline surges that change vital signs (heart rate) and may be associated with an increase in cardiac events,” Dr. Casey says. “For patients with symptoms or risks for cardiac disease, this brings up awareness to discuss this with their medical providers.”

Find out your risk for heart disease by taking our simple and easy Heart Risk Assessment.

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is the public affairs coordinator at Advocate Children's Hospital. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.