Do you own a car? A TV?
If so, you may be at risk of a heart attack?
Or at least so says this most recent study of many thousands of patients, across 52 countries. (You can breathe now; they didn’t look at the risk of iProducts.)
The INTERHEART study, published this week in the European Heart Journal, asked survivors of first heart attacks to report on their levels of physical activity while at work, and, on this headline-grabbing question–whether they had a car or TV. Not surprisingly, when heart patients were compared to matched controls without a heart attack, the associations were as any master of the obvious would have guessed:
—Mild and moderate physical activity performed in the course of a regular work day conferred a lower risk of having a heart attack.
–Heavy physical exertion at work was not protective. (Editor’s theory: think inflammation.)
–Owning a TV and car increased the risk of heart attack when compared to those who owned nether, by 27%.
When interviewed, the lead researcher said the obvious: physical activity protects people from heart attacks, and this message holds up across all socioeconomic strata across the globe. But he really spoke to me when he said that he was reluctant to suggest that only 15 minutes of exercise was sufficient, but that this study, and others like it, confirms that a little exercise is better than none.
Editorialists from Antwerp added to the obviousness,
“Physical activity remains the single most neglected therapeutic intervention worldwide. Staying physically fit throughout life may well be one of the easiest, cheapest, and most effective ways to avoid the coronary care unit.”
My two lines of commentary:
First, the idea that a worldwide strategy for reducing heart disease should include asking people to step back from technology makes little sense. Heck, I’m typing this on a wireless keyboard and an iPad2. (Cool.) Moreover, all my fit friends own Apple products, TVs and cars. Modern technology has not hurt their athleticism.
Is it the gadgets, or is it the people using them? Do our luxuries force perpetual idleness?
Similar questions: Does McDonalds force us to eat junk? Is Starbucks tricking us into drinking 700-calorie chocolate AF-inducers? Do we have to buy houses in suburbs fenced in by highways?
That’s one line of reasoning: that modernization isn’t the problem. Choices that people make are.
Maybe it’s a culture that measures success by how many gadgets one owns rather than how many watts one can generate? Think this is drippy; ponder this nooget: How many rides have you been on when the happiest guy was also the richest? And, for that matter, how much would the rich guy give up for a few more watts? For a 400 watt threshold, what would you trade? Wait, sorry, that’s off point. The point is that nobody values fitness, we value things. If we (somehow) incentivized fitness, well then, we might not have such a problem. We might talk less about LDLs and more about 5k times. Imagine.
That leads me to the second point: In figuring solutions to unhealthful behaviors, I can’t help but think of the word ‘Coexist.’ (My Louisville friends will recognize the word because it’s plastered all over local bumper stickers. Here its meaning is tolerance.) But coexistence also pertains to strategies aimed at reducing the global burden of heart disease. We have to allow for exercise and healthful eating to coexist with TVs, cars and Apple products. Taking away stuff, even if it makes sitting still more pleasurable, holds not the answer.
Let’s show, incent, cajole, convince, people how to work health into a high-tech life. And let’s make healthy choices feel normal. It’s possible–with simple strategies.
Alas, it’s as easy as mastering the obvious!
OMG….That’s it. My hotel has a spin class at 0605. Gotta get the hippocampus primed for all those lectures. Yes, I even brought the SPD shoes.