Could Sports-Related Stress Literally Break Your Heart?

NORTH TEXAS -- You don't have to tell Cowboys fans about the toll sports can take on players' health, but what about those of us watching from home?

We talked to cardiologist Dr. Carl Horton, who's made a career out of figuring out what makes our hearts tick, or in some cases stop ticking.

"What is it that triggers that acute heart attack?" Dr. Horton said. "As a cardiologist, this is what makes me get up and come to work every day.  What is it about you or about the next patient - what is it that triggers that event at that particular time?"

While oftentimes that cause is a mystery, Dr. Horton says some factors that might concern sports fans do appear to play a part.

"There was a study published recently," said Horton. "Basically whether you had physical exertion one hour prior to the heart attack, or emotional stress one hour prior to the heart attack, it was definitely associated with increased risk of events."

Now, we're talking about hearts with existing conditions, so sports probably won't break your heart - at least not literally - if it's healthy, to begin with.

But it might be worth having it checked out before, you know, your team's down by 10 in the 4th quarter, or someone hits a game-tying home run in the 8th inning of game 7.

And hey, it's not just sports. There's a stressful day coming up next Tuesday, whether you're Team Blue or Team Red.

"Probably half the electorate's going to have to somehow find a way to deal with the new stress they're going to have," said Dr. Horton.

Oh, and a little more bad news?  Excessive amounts of alcohol can increase heart risks too.

So unless you've got a clean bill of health, you might want to have a backup plan next time your heart has to work overtime.