It’s February. Not only is it time for the Super Bowl, but it’s also American Heart Month.

It’s February. Not only is it time for the Super Bowl, but it’s also American Heart Month. The big game is just days away, but unfortunately, research links big sporting events with surges in cardiovascular incidents, like heart attacks and heart failure episodes.

Commonly consumed party foods high in sodium and fat — like chips, dip and cookies — can increase blood pressure. Heightened adrenaline that can occur — like when your team throws an interception — can increase heart rate; combine with sugary drinks or alcoholic beverages, and it’s a perfect storm for serious heart problems according to Anthony Hilliard, MD, cardiologist at Loma Linda University International Heart Institute.

Here are his heart savvy tips to keep your ticker in the game during the super bowl (or any other major sporting event):

  • Skip the onion (or any other creamy) dip. Try hummus or fresh guacamole. Research shows that avocados contain healthy fats that our bodies need to reduce the bad cholesterol in our blood.
  • Ditch the greasy chips. Other options to try are fresh crisp veggies, corn or flour tortillas, pita chips or mixed nuts. Despite the rumors, nuts are good for you. Research suggests that adding one to two servings of nuts to our daily diets could cut the risk of having a heart attack in half.
  • Avoid store-bought or pre-packaged foods ­— these tend to be higher in sodium.
  • Stay hydrated. Remember to drink plenty of water because it can cut your risk of having a heart attack in half. Spice up your water with fruit, mint or cucumber for more flavor and vitamins.
  • Take your meds. Don’t skip your medication just because you don’t want to miss the halftime show.
  • Be aware. If you have a heart condition or if you’re at risk for a heart-related issue know your limits.
  • Check yourself. Significant emotionally charged events like the super bowl and intense arguments can cause a heightened adrenaline release and can increase heart rate. If things get too intense, take a quick breather outside or a few deep breaths to calm yourself down.
  • Have fun. Laugh with your friends. Laughter really is the best medicine. Experiencing joyful laughter reduces stress hormones, lowers blood pressure and elevates a person’s mood.
  • At the end of the day, remember it is just a game.