10.12.05

A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT. Riding Roller Coasters May Actually Be 'Death-defying' For People With Heart Disease. Those advisories at the loading platform? Respect them.

The thrill of a roller coaster ride with its climbs, loops and dives can speed up the heart, sparking off an irregular heartbeat that could put individuals with heart disease at risk of having a cardiovascular event, according to new research reported at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2005.

"Individuals who have suffered a heart attack, have heart disease or irregular heart rhythms should not ride a roller coaster," said Jurgen Kuschyk, M.D., a cardiologist at University Hospital in Mannheim, Germany. "The rising heart rate in riders with pre-existing heart disease could result in heart attack, irregular heart rhythms and possibly sudden cardiac death."

On the other hand, if you don't have a heart condition, the best thing to do is just relax.
Before the study, the researchers thought the increased G-forces occurring when riders suddenly plummeted towards the ground would increase stress on the body and increase heart rate. "But the increased G-force didn't have too much of an effect on the heart rate," Kuschyk said. "The heart rate appeared to rise more from psychological stress and fear at the beginning as riders were climbing or reaching the top. This was surprising. Their heartbeat increased twice or triple the amount in the first part of the ride."
I've noticed the same thing, the apprehension upon being winched up the lift worse than the experience of the ride. Best thing to do is just look around, relax, and raise your hands as the train drops off the lift hill.

The news story ran in the DeKalb Midweek, which at the start of roller coaster season interviewed a local expert on pricing and riding. (That expert has fallen a bit short of his goal of completing the research on the problem.)

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