Super Bowl super bad for intemperate fans with heart failure

Call it Monday morning quarterbacking, but with the chance to actually change the game. Based on one study, hospitals likely will see in uptick in heart failure admissions after Super Bowl Sunday—but cardiologists still have time to coach their patients to play it smart.

“Physicians beware,” Vincent M. Figueredo, MD, associate chair of cardiology at the Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, said in an interview with Cardiovascular Business. “Give your patients who are prone to heart failure a heads up. For holidays and big sporting events, warn them that a little too much partying will have them end up in the hospital.”

A number of studies have tracked an increase in emergency room visits for heart failure and cardiac events after Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Figueredo and colleagues at the Einstein Medical Center wanted to evaluate whether not only the major holidays but also the Super Bowl were associated with this pattern. They presented their results at the 2014 Heart Failure Society of America scientific session in Las Vegas.  

They identified all patients admitted to their center with a primary diagnosis of congestive heart failure between 2003 and 2013. They stratified patients into two groups: those admitted for heart failure four days after July 4, Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving and the Super Bowl, compared with heart failure admissions for the rest of the corresponding month.

They found a statistically significant increase in heart failure admissions after Christmas and July 4, with differences of 14 percent and 11.4 percent, respectively. For the Super Bowl, they detected a trend toward an 11 percent spike in the days after the games although it was not statistically significant. The Super Bowl also garnered the highest mean number of admissions per day, at 6.75.

“In 2005, the year that the Philadelphia Eagles were in the Super Bowl, the days after were the highest heart failure admissions that we saw compared to all other years,” Figueredo added.

He encouraged physicians to warn at-risk patients near holidays and mega sporting events to avoid overindulging in salty foods and alcohol. He noted that patients often are reluctant to go to the emergency room on a holiday or party day, perhaps from embarrassment or because they don’t want to interrupt the festivities.

“If they do have symptoms, seek medical attention sooner rather than waiting,” he said. In a condition such as heart failure there may be a lag between a day of excess and symptom onset as well. “It starts the snowball rolling down the hill and it accumulates such that in the days after they are forced to seek medical attention because their condition worsens.”

The Super Bowl, which this year pits the New England Patriots against the Seattle Seahawks, is scheduled to kick off on Feb. 1.