Calgary Flames fans risk heart attacks during high stress hockey games

A Calgary cardiologist warns Flames fans should worry about more than just the score during a high stakes game. Studies show they may be more at risk of heart attacks.

Calgary cardiologist says patients with a heart condition more prone to problems

Calgary Flames fans react to a goal during the NHL Western Conference quarter-final hockey action at a bar in Calgary in 2008. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Game 6 against the Vancouver Canucks was as high stress as they come for Calgary Flames fan Graham Cripps.

He has an underlying heart condition and says he felt the stress of the game

Dr. Anmol Kapoor warns Flames fans about the risk of heart attacks during high stakes games.

"A tingling sensation around the heart. It's obviously a combination of excitement and trepidation. It's nerve wracking."

It's that excitement, in combination with high salt foods and increased liquids (beer), that can increase the risk of a heart attack for sports fans, according to Calgary cardiologist Dr. Anmol Kapoor.

Kapoor says studies show that risk is even greater if the sports fan has heart problems

Risk more than doubled

"If they are with a group of friends, they are having extra beer, or if they are eating salty foods.... And now their heart goes up cheering for the team, their blood pressure is up, along with not taking medications properly, [it] can trigger those cardiac events," said Dr. Anmol Kapoor.

Researchers in Germany studied fans during the 2006 World Cup Soccer.

They found the risk more than doubled for men and women cheering on the German team.

Another study out of the American Journal of Medicine sporting events have the potential to adversely affect spectators' cardiovascular health, and protective measures should be considered.

Flames fan study

Kapoor recalls the impact on one die hard Edmonton Oilers fan while training at a hospital. The Oilers fan insisted on watching his team during the 2006 playoffs while getting treated in ICU.

"Whenever they would play a game he would go into ventricle tachycardia. His heart would go so fast that we had to call emergency, code blue, calm him down and give him medication [and] electrical shock to control things. So definitely hockey was a trigger for him."

Kapoor says its important for everyone to have fun and enjoy the games, but heart patients need to remember to take their medication and watch what they eat and drink.

Kapoor plans to study the effect of the Flames playoff run on fans' health after the series wraps up.

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