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Fitness & Health

08th Oct 2019

Is watching football bad for your heart? A new study tried to find out

If you've seen your side concede a late winner, it's common to feel like watching football will put you in an early grave. But is this backed up by science?

Alex Roberts

Last Saturday, my team conceded a 90th minute winner to the worst side in the league

Stoke have been hopeless so far this season, but they put my team, Swansea, to the sword with a late Scott Hogan winner. “Watching football is going to give me a heart attack”, I thought to myself.

But is this a reality? Will it actually increase my chances of suffering a heart attack, if they continue to concede late goals?

Stoke celebrate Scott Hogan’s winner against Swansea (Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

One set of scientists recently investigated whether watching football is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular events. In other words, heart attacks and heart disease.

Mental and emotional stresses are known to trigger heart problems, which is why scientists were keen to explore whether your boyhood club could send you to an early grave.

Does watching football increase your chances of suffering heart problems?

The results are, in part, surprising and unsurprising at the same time.

In general, watching football is associated with a higher risk of fatal heart attacks in men and women. Failure of your team is, as you might have guessed, going to increase these risks.

When your team wins, you’ve still been on an emotional rollercoaster, but this is associated with a reduced risk of heart problems. Liverpool fans have had a healthy start to the Premier League season, for example.

Watching football is also associated with increased chances of suffering non-fatal heart problems, but this was more apparent in men than women.

Manchester United fans tuck into some pre-match food (Photo by Getty Images)

Does football actually cause health problems?

It’s worth pointing out that these findings show an association, not necessarily a cause.

So while there may be a link between watching football and heart issues, we can’t say that going to the game causes any heart problems.

The link may be explained by other factors. Most football fans are male, probably between the ages of 25 and 60. Heart attacks are most likely to occur in this group. Many football fans also enjoy a pie and a couple of pints before the game. Over a sustained period of time, this could also contribute to the risks.

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