Roller coasters, heart conditions don't mix


November 18, 2005|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

New research suggests that riding roller coasters and other high-intensity rides can be dangerous to people with underlying heart conditions.

"For people with known heart disease, we strongly recommend not going on a roller coaster," said Jurgen Kuschyk, a cardiologist at University Hospital in Mannheim, Germany, who presented his research this week at the American Heart Association's meeting in Dallas.

For the study, 55 healthy men and women with an average age of 28 had ECG monitors placed on them while they rode the Expedition GeForce ride in Hassioch, Germany. The two-minute ride involved a slow climb followed by a 203-foot free fall that reached 6 Gs and 75 mph in four seconds.

On average, they went from a heart rate of about 91 before the ride to 153 within one minute. For the men in the study, the average maximum heart rate was 149. For women, it was 165.

It appeared that psychological stress during the climb created much of the heart rate increase, he added.

Lynn Smaha, a Pennsylvania cardiologist and spokesman for the heart association, said he would not tell all people with heart disease to stay off roller coasters. If their condition had been properly treated, they still might be able to ride safely, he said. However, he suggested that anyone with a pacemaker probably should avoid such rides.

He added that more research on the heart risks of amusement rides is needed.

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