Packers fans get stress test during last regular season game

GREEN BAY -- As the Green Bay Packers prepare for the playoffs, fans get a little break from the heart-pounding excitement, and while the Pack ended the season 15-1, many of those games were close, no doubt raising the stress level for some both on and off the field.

The Packers at times made it look easy during this regular season. They secured a week off, and the number one seed in the playoffs, but that doesn't mean it was easy on the fans. "Oh there's been a couple close games!" Danielle Dalasta said. "I run around, scream, holler, yell," Scott Lindner said. "All the fans, that just gets my heart rate going," Carly Resch said. "Not really heart pains, but I really want to pull my hair out sometimes!" Dalasta said.

It's called stress, and we all handle it differently.  So we enlisted the help of an expert to conduct a stress test to see if the Packers excitement really is breaking our hearts.

Lisa Koehler is a trauma nurse from the emergency room at Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay. Koehler joined us at Champion's Bar and Grill just an Aaron Rodgers throw from Lambeau Field to hook up fans to a heart monitor to evaluate how stressed we get watching the Packers in action.

Throughout the final game of the season, we hooked up three fans to the monitor to check their heart rate and blood pressure. There wasn't a lot on the line in the game, but it was a high scoring nail biter for our die-hard participants. Jay Delveaux is 48, a little overweight and a smoker. Carly Resch is 25. She exercises and is in good health. Scott Lindner is 50-years-old, in good health.

"His blood pressure is just a tiny bit high. A little bit higher then we'd like to see it, but as things change we can go ahead and monitor how his body reacts to the changes in the game," Koehler said.

Watching the Detroit Lions jump out to a nine to nothing lead got Scott anxious and riled up. "My stress problems are on defense. They get me on edge that's probably the most stressful," Lindner said. Lindner's heart rate, in the low range when calm, went up just a little during the stressful moments to 83 beats per minute. The Mayo Clinic says the heart rate for a normal adult is in the 60 to 100 beats a minute range.

As the game progressed, fans found plenty to cheer about, and plenty of plays to get stressed over. Carly tipped the stress scale during what looked like Packers fumble recovery.  Her calm heart rate in the 80s jumped to 123 beats per minute. Call it the Red Zone for stressed out football fans. "Absolutely getting excited watching the game could cause them to have a heart attack. If your heart maintains a high heart rate over 120 for a sustained period of time then you should seek medical attention," Koehler said.

The heart rate gets that jolt when the body releases the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine into the blood stream in response to physical or mental stress. In Carly's case, the elevated heart rate quickly returned to the normal range and her blood pressure was unchanged. Carly says the Lions game was nothing. "Definitely looking forward to the game in a couple weeks. I'm sure my heart rate will be a lot higher then," Resch said.

As for Jay, he had alcohol in his system from drinking beer.  The alcohol actually works as a depressant to keep the heart rate down, but his history of smoking, and being overweight, along with his higher than normal blood pressure raises the most alarming concern if stress from the Packers were to build. "Smoking is probably the single worst thing anyone can do to themselves. It constricts blood vessels, makes it harder for the heart to pump blood. It raises your blood pressure because of that, and sustained high blood pressure puts you at risk for stroke," Koehler said.

"I'm not high strung I don't think," Jay Delveaux said. Not during this game anyway. "Stress can be from the Packers doing something stupid, or you can have the same response when the Packers do something good," Koehler said.

Koehler suggests fans not take what's out of their control so seriously. Have fun and enjoy the ride in the playoffs.