Super Bowl Pre-Game Health Checklist

football2.jpgYou wouldn’t think that watching burly guys with plastic bubbles on their heads slamming together would have a lot of impact on your health, would you? Au contraire–the world of health science is mesmerized by what I call the Super Bowl Effect. Almost every year a new finding is released by researchers that shows just how much we’re affected merely by watching those grunting padded hulks fling themselves to and fro. Here’s your Doc Gurley Science-based Pre-Game Health Checklist on just what to watch out for this Super Bowl Sunday. Got your jockstrap tightened? Let’s go–

  • Tone down the drama, papa. We’ve seen a lot in the news this week about how the Super Bowl increases afootball1.jpg person’s risk of a heart attack–including increases in chest pain, unstable angina and an actual heart attack. Men are more affected than women, and people with known, pre-existing heart disease are at the most risk. If you’ve got a history of heart disease, here’s your game checklist: 1) Day before, make sure you’ve got your nitroglycerin tabs, and they’re not expired. 2) Game morning, make sure you take your prescribed aspirin (as well as other meds). 3) During the big blow-out, reach deep inside for your inner Zen. When it gets really intense, close your eyes and do Lamaze breathing (no peeking when it’s third and ten, goal to go).
  • Watch out for temper flares. Studies have shown that domestic violence rates go up with sporting events–especially among supporters of the winning team. All domestic violence is serious and damaging, and we’re talking increased rates of everything, including acts like stabbings. None of the studies looked at the specific role of alcohol or drugs, but the Doc Gurley theory is that anything that impairs judgment and lowers inhibitions in this situation sure isn’t helping matters. Here are some Game Day Tips for anyone who feels like their home might be, from time to time, unsafe. 1) Arrange a sleepover (with kids) at a friend’s house on Game Day and Night. 2) Minimize the alcohol available, if possible. 3) Have an escape plan ready. 4) Have the national domestic violence hotline number, and get yourself emotionally ready to dial 911 if necessary. 5) Most importantly, if you’re reading these tips and thinking about how to use them, make a promise to yourself to be in a safer, better place by the next time the Super Bowl rolls around. No one deserves to be hurt.
  • Manage the munchies. Studies have shown that people on special diets, like people on dialysis or those with diabetes or congestive heart failure, tend to “slip” on Super Bowl Sunday–sometimes with bad effects on your health. If you’re hosting, or if you’re a guest, here are some tips on staying fit both during and after the Big Game. 1) Ask if your guests have any special dietary needs. If you’re heading to someone’s house, eat healthy before you go, so you’re less tempted. 2) If you’re hosting and worried about asking about diets, at least make sure you have some tasty low-salt options available (he-man carrot sticks, anyone?) as well as some low-sugar ones (unsalted nuts). A spread of healthy food is good for everyone, and keeps away that post-game bloated, cranky feeling. 3) Avoid the heart-attack-on-a-plate items that seem to proliferate on Super Bowl Party Menus. You can actually enjoy food that is not simultaneously deep fried, coated in cheese and dipped in mayonnaise, I promise. Slip some baked chips into the bowl and see if, in the moments when everyone is doing their Zen deep-breathing, anyone notices. I’m betting they won’t.
  • Be quick off the mark. If the worst does happen, keep in mind that studies have also shown that emergency rooms are deserted during “peak sporting events.” It’s not just an urban myth. Doc Gurley Tip–if you’ve got a problem, don’t wait until the game is over. Get to the ER before the crush.

Go Team!

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