Can Super Bowl Heartbreak Lead to Heart Attack?

Compared with the prior week and the prior year, circulatory deaths decreased by 25 percent (P = 0.03), and ischemic heart disease deaths decreased by 31 percent (P = 0.03) in Pittsburgh after the 2009 Super Bowl win.

CV death rates in Arizona following their 2009 Super Bowl loss are an interesting contrast to the CV death rate Massachusetts. In Arizona, cardiac death rates did not change significantly, and compared with other Super Bowls, total deaths decreased by 14 percent (P = 0.009) after Arizona’s 2009 Super Bowl loss.


The authors suggest that the association between defeat and increased cardiac deaths indicates that “emotional stress is associated with changes in CV event rates, even in the modern era.” Conversely, the “euphoria of victory” has a protective effect against CV death. According to the authors, conditions that reflect the emotional response of the fan base include:

  1.      The importance of the game
  2.      The drama and intensity of the game
  3.      The emotional attachment of the fan base
  4.      Hometown game location
  5.      The outcome (An “upset loss” is “more impactful than an expected loss.”)

The authors speculate that CV rates did not change in Arizona, despite the 2009 loss, because they were less attached to the team, and defeat was expected. 

“Perhaps among fans without a strong emotional attachment to the team, the outcome of the game has little impact on cardiovascular health.” In those cases, even when there is a loss, Super Bowl Sunday may be a relaxing holiday, associated with reduced stress, and therefore responsible for a decrease in all-cause mortality.


The authors observe that current interventions in CV disease do not necessarily prevent deaths caused by emotional triggering, such as Super Bowl defeats. They recommend “more research into how to reduce emotional stress associated with cardiac events.”


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