As World Cup fever is taking over the nation for the next four weeks, health experts from the World Health Organisation and the Food Standards Agency are concerned about the health risks this will pose for football fans here and abroad.
The world’s top players will be displaying the highest level of fitness and health, but football fans are more likely to be at the other end of the spectrum and eat a diet high in salt and fat, drink copious amounts of alcohol, undertake little exercise and experience stress and anxiety while watching the matches.
As the pressure rises with each win for England so will the fans’ blood pressure. Jules Birch, founder of Works with Water Nutraceuticals, explains: “Following England in the World Cup is often a very stressful and all-absorbing experience. Football fans are likely to experience high blood pressure through stress, smoking, drinking and eating junk food, which directly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease including heart attacks and strokes”
She continues: “Someone with high blood pressure will have a reading of 135 over 85 (135/85) and is almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to somebody with a healthy blood pressure of 120 over 80. Some people may feel that the WHO and FSA’s guidelines for healthy living are quite patronising, but I would argue that raising awareness for these issues will save lives.”
The UK’s Food Standard Agency (FSA) is currently running a ‘Food For Sport’ campaign to promote healthy eating during the World Cup with suggestions for easy and healthy recipes from around the world.(1) The World Health Organisation has developed a health advisory campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup with the aim to inspire fans to think about their diet and level of physical activity during and after the World Cup.(2)
What are the main risks for England fans this coming World Cup?
A man’s safe daily unit limit is 4, or just one pint of 4% or stronger lager. Every additional pint raises systolic blood pressure by another 4 mmHg, so just 5 pints takes blood pressure into red card territory. During the last World Cup in 2006, 815 million pints were sold in the UK, 60 million more than the previous June.(3)
Episodes of anxiety cause dramatic spikes in blood pressure. If these temporary episodes occur frequently they can cause just as much damage to blood vessels and to major organs such as the heart and kidneys as consistently high blood pressure. Furthermore, when you’re anxious you're more likely to resort to other unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking and overeating.
For many of us, typical World Cup celebrations will include a large quantity of high calorie, salty party food, raising blood pressure even more. To maintain a healthy level, Jules Birch from Works with Water Nutraceuticals recommends an adult should eat no more than 6g of salt a day, and that any food with more than 20g total fat or 5g saturated fat per 100g of food should be avoided completely. Unfortunately, one of Britain’s half time favourites, pizza (4) , often contains 15g saturated fat and at least 3g of salt.
Distributed by Sarah Vrancken (SVPR) on behalf of Works with Water Nutraceuticals.
For more information, please contact Sarah on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07891 828 787
4. Which? Consumer research September 2009
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