Car owners with a television are 27 percent more likely to
suffer heart attacks than people who have neither, according to a global study
on physical exercise and heart disease published Wednesday.
More broadly, the study -- covering more than 29,000 people
in 52 countries -- showed that working up a light sweat may be the best
preventative medicine against heart failure.
Until now, surprisingly little research has focused on how
physical exertion at work and play influences the incidence of heart attacks,
and even less has directly compared this data across nations at all income
"This study shows that mild to moderate physical
activity at work, and any level of activity during leisure time, reduces the
risk of heart attacks," said lead researcher Claes Held, a professor at
Uppsala University in Sweden.
It also "extends previous findings of the protective
effect of leisure-time physical activity ... to low- and middle-income
Held and colleagues poured over data collected from 1999 to
2003 for the so-called Interheart study.
They compared one group of more than 10,000 middle-aged men
and women who had had a single heart attack with an even larger cohort with no
history of cardiovascular disease.
Physical activity at work and during leisure time was
divided into four levels of exertion: being completely sedentary at one
extreme, and, at the other, doing hard physical labour on the job or
heart-pounding aerobic exercise while at play.
Not surprisingly, the study, published in the European Heart
Journal, found that exercise is good for the heart.
But the effectiveness of physical activity varied depending
on the setting and intensity, according to the research.
Any kind of workout during leisure time was shown to be a
plus, with heart attack risk -- compared to doing almost nothing -- dropping 13
percent for mild activity and 24 percent for moderate or strenuous exercise.
The advantages were similar for light and moderate levels of
physical activity on the job. Unexpectedly, however, heavy physical labour did
not reduce risk at all.
Personal Possessions Affect Risk
Held and colleagues also investigated whether owning an
automobile, motorcycle, stereo, TV, computer, land or livestock influenced
"Subjects who owned a car and a TV" -- 25 percent
of the respondents in poorer and middle-income nations, and two-thirds in rich
ones -- "were at higher risk of myocardial infarction," the medical
term for a heart attack, the researchers concluded.
Diabetes and high blood pressure was also more common, but
only in the developing world, the researchers found.
What accounted for the link? Another set of figures from the
study points to a common-sense explanation.