March Madness, the annual NCAA basketball championship tournament, is here and sports fans are watching their brackets – perhaps a little too intently. It’s no myth: too much excitement from watching sports could trigger a heart issue that lands you in the ER.

Doctors from Abrazo Health note that stress from watching a close, exciting game can be harmful to those with and without heart conditions. Sporting events, especially when your team is losing, can have a definite negative impact on heart health, according to studies cited by the National Institutes of Health.

READ ALSO: Molly Miller brings winningest college coaching record to GCU

“March Madness earned its name for a reason. Being emotionally upset or angry can raise blood pressure and heart rate, which changes blood flow and reduces blood supply to the heart. This can lead to a heart attack or other cardiovascular problems,” said Dr. Gopi Cherukuri, an interventional cardiologist at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital.

Dr. Gopi Cherukuri

Chronic stress, when your body is in high gear off and on for days or weeks at a time (like watching a basketball tournament, for example), may lead to high blood pressure and increase the risk for a heart attack or stroke.

If you or someone you know is experiencing extreme anxiety while cheering your team, it could be time to take a break and calm down a bit, noted Dr. Cherukuri. Limiting alcohol consumption, eating healthier foods and avoiding arguments over which team is best also will help.

Stress and anxiety are known to contribute to health problems, so it’s important to know the risks and ways to reduce the likelihood of experiencing a heart attack and heart disease.

“Living through the past two years of the coronavirus pandemic has brought new levels of stress affecting many in the community. Don’t let your excitement over a game contribute to even more stress,” added Dr. Cherukuri.

More than 18.2 million adults over age 20 have coronary heart disease, and each year about 805,000 people in the U.S. have a heart attack, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Signs of heart attack:

• Chest tightness

• Shortness of breath

• Pain between the shoulder blades or in the arm, jaw, chest or upper abdomen

• Dizziness or fatigue

• Clammy skin or cold sweat

• Indigestion or nausea and vomiting

Call 9-1-1 right away if you or someone else has any of these symptoms.

It’s important to keep it all in perspective. If your favorite team doesn’t win, there’s always next year. Just ask Dr. Cherukuri when it comes to his Ohio State Buckeyes!!!

For more information on services available at Abrazo Health hospitals, visit