"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."
A German study of 37 men and 18 women volunteers average age 28 found that some people who rode a roller coaster had an increased heart rate that could cause arrhythmias an irregular heart beat in some individuals. "The mental and physical stress from riding on the roller coaster was comparable to a fast game of squash or tennis," Kuschyk said. "For young healthy people there is no risk for heart attack and arrhythmias from riding a roller coaster."
But people with high blood pressure, a previous heart attack, an implanted pacemaker or defibrillator, and others with proven heart disease, should not ride a roller coaster, researchers said.
Kuschyk also suggested that operators of roller coasters have an external defibrillator on hand. "A lot of people don't know they have heart disease, yet they are riding roller coasters," he said.
The heart rates of riders increased dramatically during and after the ride. Emotional stress appeared to be a strong contributing factor in the rise in heart rates of riders, especially in women who had higher maximum heart rates than men, researchers said.
A continuous 12-channel Holter electrocardiogram was placed on participants. It recorded heart rates before, during and after the roller coaster ride.
Contact: Carole Bullock or Karen Astle
American Heart Association