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Caution: Haunted houses may be hazardous to your heart

by Jeff Rossen and Lindsey Bomnin / / Source: TODAY

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Haunted house attractions are supposed to be scary... in a fun way. But the signs they post warning you to enter at your own risk (and not come in at all in you have medical problems) are enough to give you real chills.

To see what actually happens to your body when you walk through a haunted house, TODAY national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen dared venture into Blood Manor, a haunted house attraction in New York City. He wore a medical devices to enable cardiologist Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum to monitor his heart rate in real time.

When you go through a haunted house, "there are hormones that rush through your system, the fight or flight syndrome," Steinbaum explained. "These hormones can increase your heart rate, your blood pressure, make your respiratory rate go up."

Sure enough, when an actor leaped out of the dark at Rossen, his heart rate jumped to 100 beats a minute. Other scares took it higher: past 125 to 138 and 146, enough to make his body react as if he were exercising hard.

Jeff Rossen in Haunted House
Sudden scares in Blood Manor sent Jeff Rossen's heart rate jumping.TODAY

Rossen's heart rate was still high when he exited the attraction, but Steinbaum told him, "You are going to be fine because you're a healthy adult. But if you have a heart condition, you should not go into a haunted house."

So what's considered a potentially dangerous heart rate? Doctors say there's a simple way to calculate it: Take the number 220 and subtract your age. If your heart rate goes over that many beats per minute, the risk of having an irregular heartbeat goes up.

To suggest a topic for an upcoming investigation, visit the Rossen Reports Facebook page.

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