UPMC Offers Health and Safety Tips for Super Bowl Watchers
Pittsburgh, Jan. 31, 2011
Tips for keeping your heart in check during the big game
Could seven be the Pittsburgh Steelers’ lucky number? That’s what football fans are hoping when the Steelers vie for their seventh Super Bowl title on Feb. 6. But while the game against the Green Bay Packers will surely be full of heart-pounding action, John Schindler, M.D., a physician at the UPMC Cardiovascular Institute, offers these tips to keep your own 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 that causes your heart rate and blood pressure to rise.
- Eat healthy 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.
- Eliminate bad habits. Discontinue unhealthy tobacco habits for yourself, your family and friends. Exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk for vascular disease.
- Not feeling well? Know the signs. 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.
Protect your hearing at the extra-noisy Cowboys Stadium
Noise levels are sure to be at their highest at the world’s largest domed stadium on Super Bowl Sunday. But no matter where you watch the game, the piercing screams of Steelers fans and other loud sounds can be harmful to your ears.
Though effects of noise exposure may go unnoticed for years, people with hearing damage will eventually experience permanent hearing loss that can’t completely be compensated for with today’s hearing aids.
“Any sound louder than 90 decibels – about the noise level of a loud party – can cause hearing damage after prolonged exposure,” says Catherine Palmer, Ph.D., director of the Center for Audiology and Hearing Aids at UPMC’s Eye and Ear Institute. “The echoes of thousands of screaming fans at a football stadium can be much louder, and so can sound levels at most bars, where loud music and televisions cause patrons to speak even louder, especially if those patrons are Steelers fans!”
Dr. Palmer recommends wearing hearing protection in loud settings. “Earplugs could make the game more enjoyable and safer for many fans, and there are certain types of earplugs that provide a quieter level of sound without distorting it,” she adds.
Winning Super Bowl team often is more mentally tough
If you think watching the Super Bowl is nerve-wracking, imagine how mentally challenging it is for the players. Athletes at this level usually are equipped to perform at their best both physically and mentally, but the team that displays the most mental toughness during high-pressure situations often has the advantage.
One mistake athletes make when they are in a championship game is that they “play not to lose” instead of “playing to win.”
“Playing to win means focusing on doing everything to the best of your ability and having confidence in yourself and your teammates, while playing not to lose causes athletes to be tentative and anxious because they are focusing on not making mistakes,” says Aimee Kimball, Ph.D., UPMC Sport Medicine’s director of mental training. “When you play to win you are driven by the pride and excitement of winning rather than the fear and disappointment of losing.”
Players also need to be mentally prepared for the flow of a Super Bowl game compared to previous contests, due to the ceremonial traditions, the heightened publicity and longer TV commercial breaks.
“They should stick to their regular-season routines and approach this game as if it’s any other game,” Dr. Kimball adds.
Offer healthy alternatives to tailgate temptations
You can satisfy your appetite on Super Bowl Sunday without looking like a Steelers lineman post-game. Leslie Bonci, R.D., UPMC Sports Medicine’s director of sports nutrition and a long-time Steelers nutrition consultant, recommends adding healthier fare to your Super Bowl party spread.
- If you’re hosting a party, try offering some healthy snacks, like cut-up vegetables and popcorn with a dash of chili powder. Or spread black bean dip, shredded cheddar cheese and salsa onto a corn tortilla and cut it into small pieces.
- Offer low-calorie entrees at half-time, too. Use lean ground beef or turkey in your chili, or try a “super chili” by adding black beans and corn. Offer mini sandwich wraps instead of the full-size versions. Bake potato wedges instead of frying them.
- Beverage calories add up quickly. Offer light beer as well as low-calorie, non-alcoholic options.
- For dessert, fresh fruit cups, biscotti and key-lime pies (in small slices) tend to be lower in calories than traditional party fare.