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Could rooting for the Lakers be bad for you?

June 8, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Could rooting for the Lakers be bad for your health? Some doctors say fans should be watchful for signs of a heart attack.After a decisive win in Game 1, sheer fear set in for die-hard Laker fan Terry Boykoff.

"The last two or three minutes were just very painful," said Terry. "The Celtics pushed a little bit harder and things that we wanted to do just didn't happen."

Terry's dad, Harry Boykoff, played for the Celtics in 1950. So a matchup between the two teams is his dream. But his father passed down more than just a love of the game, the Boykoffs have a history of heart disease. And Terry has an irregular heartbeat, so during Tuesday's game his cardiologist wants to make sure Terry keeps his emotions in check.

"It wouldn't surprise me that when the games are this close and there's so much stress, and it's a back and forth game, we'll see more patients having heart problems," said electrophysiologist Dr. Shephal Doshi.

Researchers find during the meaningful games like Tuesday's finals, the World Cup or the Super Bowl, heart attacks and cardiac emergencies can double.

Dr. Doshi blames the adrenaline rush which can cause inflammation and lead to angina or chest pain.

"Also the adrenaline can make the heart short circuit or an arrhythmia," said Dr. Doshi. "Your heart suddenly starts racing at 200 to 300 beats a minute."

But it's not just the rush of the game other things contribute to heart attack. Doctors say during this time fans could be getting less sleep, they could be drinking a lot and being exposed to smoke and alcohol.

"Stay away from eating as many unhealthy things as you can. Stay away from the smoke. Try not to drink a lot of caffeine or alcohol," said Dr. Doshi. "Use your common sense."

So to keep his heart in check, Terry says he tries to follow the teachings of Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

"You have to separate yourself and be a little Phil," said Dr. Doshi. "Maybe you have to have a little Zen."

At least five million Americans have an irregular heart beat or atrial fibrillation. Former Laker and NBA Hall of Famer GM Jerry West has publicly acknowledged that he has the condition. West says he has a hard time watching important games because of the effect it has on his heart.


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