The Super Bowl: How the big game could be a game changer for your health

The U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis is prepped. The teams are set. The fans are thrilled. This year’s Super Bowl will be a game where folks come together, eat together and cheer together. While some may view Feb. 4 as just another day, it can play a major role in your mental and physical health.

“This is one of the few times in the dead of winter when people venture out of their homes and get-together with family and friends,” says Essentia Health-Fargo Psychologist Megan Spencer, who sees patients at the South University Clinic. “We tend to stay alone inside in the winter, and the big game gets us out and interacting with people. That’s huge for our mental health.”

Whether you’re a football fanatic or just a fan of the TV ads, almost everyone can agree, whoever made the food is the real MVP of the day. However, we don’t want to punt our New Year’s diet just yet.

“Big gettogethers can be incredibly hard for people navigating life with a new diet,” says Essentia Health Registered Dietitian Jenny Bednar, who sees patients at Fargo’s South University Clinic. “The wings, the chips, the beer. All foods associated with the game, but also foods that can throw your diet off course.”

People can eat as many as 2,400 calories during the game alone, according to some estimates. That’s more than a typical person’s calorie count for an entire day. However, there are ways to combat the calories and still munch during the game.

“If you’re unsure what the host of the party will have, offer to bring a veggie tray,” says Bednar. “Then you at least know you’ll have something healthy to eat while your team plays. But, it’s OK if you indulge in a slice of pizza or two. Life is all about moderation.”

Moderation also means taking breaks from watching the game if you have a heart condition.

“If your heart is affected by cardiovascular issues, avoiding additional stress during the game would be beneficial,” says Essentia Health Cardiologist Dr. Samantha Kapphahn, who sees patients in Essentia’s 32nd Avenue Clinic. “While it may be rare, high levels of emotion or excitement can have a risk of causing heart events.”

A 2017 article in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology found on average, a person’s heartbeat went from 60 beats per minute at rest to 114 beats per minute while watching sports. The study also found negative cardiovascular events were more likely during high-stress moments of a game, such as overtime.

“By no means should people stop watching sports,” says Dr. Kapphahn. “But it’s wise for everyone to know their cardiovascular risk factors and the warning signs of a heart attack, so you can take the appropriate steps to keep watching the big game.”

Here are the warning signs of a heart attack from the American Heart Association. Don’t wait to get help if you experience any of these warning signs. Although some heart attacks are sudden and intense, most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Pay attention to your body — and call 911 if you feel:

Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.

Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Whether you’re trying to boost your mental health, maintain a healthy diet or know more about your heart health, you can talk to the trusted team at Essentia Health. For more information on our psychology, dietary and cardiovascular programs, go to and click on “Find a Service/Specialty.

Source: Essentia Health press release

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