Tackling Costly Saints Stress


Stress costs Americans $300 billion a year, and Louisianians are coping with an unique blitz – Saints fever.

According to a recent American Psychological Association report, stress costs hundreds of billions in “accidents, absenteeism, employee turnover, diminished productivity and direct medical, legal and insurance costs” across the nation annually, and healthline.com found stress affects a person’s mental health and takes a physical toll on the body.

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“As each week passes with another Saints victory, the stakes are getting higher – and so are our stress levels,” said Ochsner Health System’s Dr. Samy Abdelghani. “Think about the last time you watched a game… Was your heart pounding?”

This Sunday, Jan. 20, when the New Orleans Saints strive to beat the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game, they will be fighting for another shot to play in the Super Bowl. Dr. Abdelghani said studies show when you watch a Saints game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome you could snap, and suffer from a higher than average heart rate depending on how stressful the game is. For many, this Sunday’s game will be a nail-biter!

“The more ‘high stakes’ moments in the game, the faster someone’s heart would beat,” said Dr. Abdelghani about getting into the stress zone. “When you feel your heart racing, that is adrenaline in your bloodstream which increases your heart rate and blood pressure. It’s important to distinguish between normal indicators of stress and more serious symptoms.”

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When rooting for the Saints to score the chance to compete in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, on Sunday, Feb. 3, look out for these red flags: severe chest pain, headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness and palpitations. Dr. Abdelghani recommends seeking immediate medical attention if any of these symptoms go out-of-bounds throughout the game. 

Fumbling what you eat during a Saints game or tailgating can be stressful too, especially if you have diabetes. Ochsner Health System’s Angelina LeBlanc, RDN, LDN, CDE, said managing blood sugars and staying healthy are key components to maximizing a spectator experience.

“Blood sugar level awareness is key to great diabetes control,” she said. “Bring blood sugar testing supplies and devices like a Continuous Glucose Monitoring System (CGMS), and discuss the best times for blood sugar tests and blood sugar target ranges with your healthcare provider.”

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Whether you’re at the Superdome or at home armchair quarterbacking this Sunday, LeBlanc recommends passing on the junk food and eating lean grilled proteins including chicken, shrimp, pork loin, lean beef and alligator, fruits, vegetables and other healthy side dishes.

“It’s best to eat every three to four hours for blood sugar stability and hunger control, and you’ll want to fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables,” she said.  

If tailgating, LeBlanc said to bring pills, insulin or other injectable medications with you, keep them at their recommended temperatures and wear a Medical ID to provide crucial information in times of a medical emergency.  

“For hypoglycemia, items [to bring] could include glucose tabs, gel tubes or a hard candy like Lifesavers,” said LeBlanc. “For hyperglycemia, ensure that you’ve taken your diabetes medication, drink plenty of water and test urine ketones if recommended by your health care provider.”

When drinking alcohol LeBlanc said women should only have one drink per day, and men should have no more than two.

“Always follow your health care provider’s advice on alcohol intake and your specific health conditions to make sure alcohol is safe for you to drink,” she said. “Use mixers without sugar – diet soda, diet tonic water, water or sugar-free flavoring like Crystal Light.”

And when cheering on the Saints, especially if you have tickets to this weekend’s game, you’ll probably stress over noise levels. According to Ochsner Health System’s audiologist Kelly Jones, audibles in the Dome reached a potentially record-breaking 128 decibels on Sunday, Jan. 13, falling about two decibels short of the Guinness World Record for loudest crowd roar at an indoor sports stadium ever. 

“To put that in perspective, 130 decibels equate to a military jet aircraft takeoff from an aircraft carrier with afterburner at 50 feet,” she said. “If a sound reaches 150 decibels, it’s enough to rupture your eardrum.”

Jones said continuous loud noise is more hazardous than intermittent noise, like the kind you’d experience at a football game, but you should still take safety precautions especially if you have pre-existing hearing loss. That means blocking out high volumes by wearing noise protectors at a Saints game.

“Custom-fit noise plugs are comfortable, durable and recommended by most hearing healthcare professionals,” said Jones. “You can also use disposable, non-custom earplugs. Just remember to not reuse them.”

Jones said it’s time to see an audiologist if you:

         • Strain to hear normal conversation

         • Must watch other people’s mouths carefully to follow conversation

         • Need to ask people to repeat what they’ve said

         • Often misunderstand what people are saying

         • Turn up the television or radio volume so high that others complain

         • Feel that people are mumbling when they speak

         • Notice that when using the phone you hear better with one ear than the other


Ochsner’s Dr. Abdelghani said watching the Saints this weekend doesn’t have to be stressful. He prescribes eating heart-healthy foods during the game including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts, and limiting red meat and excessive sodium. He also said you can achieve some personal touchdown points if you play games, walk or exercise during half-time.

“There is nothing like the joy of watching the Saints win with your family and friends,” he said. “Happiness has been proven time and time again to be beneficial to your health, and there is nothing that makes people in Louisiana happier than seeing a Black and Gold victory.”

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