News items Watching sports: healthy stress?

18 June 2024

Rising tension before the UEFA EURO cup final of the Netherlands, a conceded goal in the very last second… Watching top-level sports is extremely thrilling. Does this tension also lead to more heart attacks?  

Peter Damman, cardiologist:

‘An analysis in the Munich region during the 2006 World Cup in Germany found that men were three times and women twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to the same period a year earlier. The outcome of the match wasn’t important; sports fans had heart attacks mainly before and during the games. A study during the 2014 World Cup showed similar results.’

‘Fortunately, not everyone has a heart attack around a thrilling match, but stress levels do rise for some supporters. The exact mechanism behind heart attacks is not entirely clear, but it is known that stress leads to changes in blood pressure and heart rate. Stress hormones may also play a role.’

‘The underlying cause of the heart attack is important to know who is at increased risk. The classic heart attack occurs when a piece of arterial plaque breaks off and blocks a blood vessel. A less well-known heart condition is tako tsubo, the broken heart syndrome. This involves no plaque but heart muscle disease, which can lead to acute heart failure. Here too, stress can be a trigger, often brought on by a very emotional event.’

More information

Annemarie Eek


Matthijs Kox

senior researcher IC

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Pauline Dekhuijzen

wetenschaps- en persvoorlichter

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