Watching the Big Game? Tips to Keep Your Heart in Check

By: Rick Pietzak

Pittsburgh’s broken-hearted football fans will struggle to choose sides today between the San Francisco 49ers, who could tie the Steelers for most Super Bowl victories, or a hated division rival, the Baltimore Ravens.  The stress of making that decision is more than enough to get a fan worked up, perhaps more than the actual game.

Whatever you decide, John Schindler, M.D., a physician at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, offers these tips to keep your heart in check during the big game:
  • Stay calm. There’s no use getting worked up over something you can’t control so try to relax and enjoy the game. Stress releases adrenaline into the bloodstream, which causes your heart rate and blood pressure to rise.
  • Eat healthful foods and stay away from salty snacks. Limit your sodium intake to 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams a day, as recommended by the American Heart Association. Make sure you eat lots of fruits and vegetables, fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids that prevent coronary artery disease, and limit alcohol intake to two drinks a day for men and less than one drink a day for women. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of whiskey.
  • Visit your doctor for regular check-ups. If you have risk factors for heart disease, schedule a preventive screening with your doctor. Risk factors can include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, tobacco use, diabetes, a family history of heart disease, physical inactivity and obesity.
  • Discontinue unhealthy tobacco habits for yourself, your family and friends. Exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk for vascular disease.
  • Not feeling well? If you develop discomfort in the chest, neck, jaw, back, shoulder or arm, along with difficulty breathing, call 911. These are symptoms of a heart attack.