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Saturday, 1 June, 2002, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
How to have a healthy World Cup

The nation is set to be glued to its televisions this weekend as the World Cup kicks off in the Far East.

But what impact will those early matches have on our bodies? How will we cope with beer and pizza on Sunday morning as the England v Sweden match kicks off?

And what about the palpitations as one of the England squad steps up to take a penalty?

Experts are offering advice about how football fanatics can get through the tournament with their health intact.

Drinking while watching a game will be very hard to resist

Dr Ian Banks, Men's Health Forum

Alcohol is closely linked with enjoyment of the game for many, but drinking first thing in the morning will affect the body for the rest of the day.

Dr Ian Banks, chairman of the Men's Health Forum, told BBC News Online: "I think drinking while watching a game will be very hard to resist."

One unit takes around an hour to pass through the body, so just a couple of pints while watching the match mean alcohol will still be in your system for at least four hours afterwards, affecting performance at work, and a particular danger for anyone who has to drive.

Fans should aim to exercise themselves, not just watch David Beckham
Fans should aim to exercise themselves, not just watch David Beckham
Dr Banks said those fans who wanted to watch every match could have a particular problem: "The World Cup goes on for a long time. If you're going to drink every day, you've got a problem".

But hand in hand with alcohol goes unhealthy snacks - crisps, pizzas and sausage rolls.

Dr Wendy Doyle, spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, said: "The biggest problem will be people putting on weight is its effect on the heart.

"If you don't put on weight, you're preventing heart problems, and other health problems including diabetes and some forms of cancer."

She advised: "Obviously people should be careful about the amount of alcohol they consume and not to compound the problem by eating high fat foods."

Dr Doyle added: "Unless they're working to increase their own physical activity levels, and not relying on David Beckham's physical activity levels, they'll have to expect to put on weight."

Heart health

But there could be some more serious consequences from World Cup addiction.

In 1998, when the World Cup took place in France, the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary treated 151 patients for football-related problems.

These included one fan being rushed to hospital after suffering an asthma attack while watching the Scots team lose 3-0 to Morocco, and another who was treated for self-inflicted deafness from his shouting at the television.

Eight more were treated for chest pains, two for hyperventilation, three for alcohol-related seizures and one for palpitations.

And Dutch researchers found that on the day Holland lost to France in the 1996 European Championship, the number of deaths from heart attacks and strokes Dutchmen suffered was significantly higher than normal.

A spokesman for the British Heart Foundation said: "People should enjoy the World Cup. What we say is try to do that, but at the same time, think a bit about what you're doing to your heart.

"If you're going to watch a World Cup match, why not try to go out for a brisk walk or something like that."

He said a bit of stress could actually be good for the heart.

"Watching an exciting football game is probably quite good for you.

"It's the things you do while you're stressed, such as smoking and eating the wrong foods that are bad for you."

But Professor John Henry, a consultant in accident and emergency medicine at St Mary's Hospital, London said: "I think it's clear that any sort of stress or stressful situation will put up your blood pressure.

"And if anyone's at risk, it could harm them.

"People notice their heart beating faster when they are watching a match.

"If someone has say, angina, it would be better to tape the match and watch it once you know the result."

Ronaldo won the World Cup and the Golden Boot
Gary Lineker

See also:

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