In order to determine the effects of video games on the heart, we must look at
several different things. First, we must determine which specific areas we want
to investigate. Looking at increased heart rate and blood pressure, we need to
determine the average maximum heart rate for the age group being tested. We must
determine what factors can cause one’s heart rate to increase, and we must look
at the current studies in regard to the various social effects of video and
other electronic games. The main way that we increase our heart rate is through
exercise, and even then health care professionals recognize the importance of
pacing yourself. In order to pace yourself, you must determine your target heart
rate. To do this, you must measure your pulse periodically as you exercise and
stay within 50 to 75 percent of you maximum heart rate. A simple rule of thumb
is if you can talk and walk at the same time, you are not working too hard. If
you can sing and maintain your level of effort, you are probably not working
hard enough. If you get out of breath quickly, you are probably working too
hard, especially if you have to stop and catch your breath. The target heart
rate chart is broken down from twenty years of age to seventy years. The target
heart rate zone of fifty to seventy-five percent for people of twenty years is

100-150 beats per minute with the average maximum heart rate of 100% at 200
beats per minute. The second main contributor to increasing your heart rate is
through stress. Doctors have determined that the problem with stress is that our
body thinks we are still cavemen. There hasn’t been time for us to evolve
physiologically from the high-threat, short-duration stress situations that
primitive man faced to the relatively low-threat, long-duration stresses of
modern society. When your body receives a message that you are under stress, it
automatically thinks you are going to do one of two things, fight or run away.

The body does not know how to temper its response to deal with the week-long
pressure of dooming deadlines or other stresses that we deal with daily. This
overkill response, in time, takes a physical toll, especially on the
cardiovascular system. When you are under stress, you are not thriving. Your
blood pressure is elevated, your blood clotting mechanism is working at full
force, your heart is beating faster than normal and your metabolic rate is up.

Keep it for hours and you will be exhausted, for years and you are headed for a
heart attack. Doctors place stress as the secondary risk factor for heart
disease. Stress and video games often go hand in hand. During the last several
decades, video games have emerged as one of the most popular forms of adolescent
entertainment. In the United States alone, video game revenues total ten billion
dollars annually. On the average, children who have home video games play with
them approximately ninety minutes a day. Some of the trends in game playing are
disturbing some observers. A 1993 study asked 357 seventh and eight graders to
list their preferences among five categories of video games. The study found
that fantasy violence topped the list at thirty-two percent. It also find that
boys who play violent games tend to have a lower self-concept in the areas of
academic ability, peer acceptance and behavior. The most interesting is the
possible link between playing violent video games and subsequent aggressive
behavior. Boys aged eight to fourteen are the core audience for video games.

Another study found that a series of three video games played under three
increasing levels of stress elicited progressively higher values of blood
pressure and heart rate. Both the race and gender of the subjects affected the
reactivity. Heavy video game players have a difficult time with the regard to
discharging aggression, and have a lower frustration tolerance. It has been
found that hostility is increased when playing highly aggressive video games and
mildly aggressive games. Subjects playing the high aggression game were much
more anxious than the other subjects. In one study, the researcher found that
not only did the heart rates of the participants increase while playing video
games, but also the rates of those merely watching the game increased. The study
demonstrated clear differences between playing the violent game over a
non-violent game. The study also demonstrated strong differences between playing
and watching the games in violent verses non-violent games. Physiological data
points to large differences in the intensity of physiological response to
violent games over non-violent games. One potential inference that may be drawn
is that the violent content is more demanding of the player and therein lies the
increased physiological response. The violent play field is one where the player
must always be on guard, any lack of attention will result in the end of a turn.

This dynamic of the violent play field insures that the violent games will have
greater feedback and interaction with the player. The non-violent games allow
time for thought and are not as demanding on the player. This does not present
the player with the need of defensive posture all the time. Other research has
suggested that playing video games may affect some children’s physical
functioning. Effects have ranged from triggering epileptic seizures to causing
heart rate and blood pressure changes. Serious adverse physical effects are
limited to a small number of players. A new study suggests that watching the
most violent video games may leave children more prone to heart problems later
in life. Researchers measured blood chemicals of sixty students, before and
after playing violent video games and found that the adrenaline levels increased
by as much as nineteen percent. Many doctors agree that this is not good for the
heart. Over a period of time, people with these elevated levels may be at a
higher risk for high blood pressure later in life. Adrenaline is produced by the
body when one becomes excited, scared, nervous or agitated. High blood pressure,
or hypertension, if gone untreated places one at a high risk for the development
of a disabling or fatal disease. Unfortunately, hypertension is often overlooked
because one may not experience any symptoms, thus its nickname, “the silent
killer”. Symptoms include consistent blood pressure readings of 140/90 or
higher, headache, flush face or a pulsing sensation in the head. The blood
pressure is determined by two readings, the top number indicates the systolic
blood pressure and the bottom the diastolic pressure. Normal systolic readings
are below 140, 140 to 159 indicates borderline hypertension, above 160 is
definite systolic hypertension. The diastolic pressure is normal below 85.

Borderline hypertension occurs when the reading is 85 to 89. Mild to moderate
hypertension ranges from 90 to 114, and severe hypertension is classified at 115
and above. When determining if you have high blood pressure, you should have
several readings at various times of the day for several days. If your readings
are consistently elevated, the you have confirmed hypertension. Doctors are
concerned that children playing violent video games are unknowingly setting
themselves up for future heart problems. In 1983, a study on the effects of
video games on children found that they had a more positive effect on children
than watching television. More recent research has found connections between
children’s playing of violent video games and later aggressive behavior. One
point that disturbs researchers is that violent video games often put the
player, as the lone man against an evil force. Such games as this, they
conclude, does not teach a child to be a team player and offers no sense of
community. This encourages a child to isolate himself, and not interact with
fellow peers, in a team type situation. The dominance of the male figure versus
the female figure has triggered many researchers to question the social content
of the games and the influence of their attitudes in regard to gender roles.

With some video games causing aggression and aggression being a contributor to
stress and stress a contributor to increased heart rate, and high blood
pressure, one could arrive at the conclusion that video games can indeed effect
your heart rate and lead to future heart problems.