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TV & cars 'bad for heart health'

Global study sheds more light on role played by cars, televisions and exercise on the risk of heart attacks
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Keith David Barnard
family watching tv

11th January 2012 - If you want to significantly lower your risk of having a heart attack, you should ditch the desk job and get rid of your car and your TV, according to new research.

A worldwide study has shown that those whose work involves light or moderate physical activity have a reduced risk of having a heart attack compared to those in sedentary occupations. It's also found that ownership of a car and a television are linked to a 27% increased risk of having a heart attack compared to those who own neither.

Major study

The findings come from the INTERHEART study of over 29,000 people from 262 centres in 52 countries, including the UK.

The researchers say mild to moderate physical activity at work, and any level of physical activity during leisure time, reduces the risk of heart attack, independent of other traditional risk factors in men and women of all ages, in most regions of the world and in countries with low, middle or high income levels.

The study

To reach their conclusions, teams from Uppsala University Hospital, Sweden and colleagues from Canada and the USA, compared the work and leisure exercise habits of 10,043 people who had suffered their first heart attack with a control group of 14,217 healthy people.

They asked the participants whether their work was mainly sedentary, or predominantly walking at one level, or mainly walking including walking uphill or lifting heavy objects, or heavy physical labour.

For physical activity during their leisure time, participants could select from four possible responses: mainly sedentary (sitting activities, such as sitting reading, watching TV), mild exercise (minimal effort activities, such as yoga, fishing, easy walking), moderate exercise (moderate effort, such as walking, cycling or light gardening at least four hours a week), and strenuous exercise (when the heart beats rapidly, such as running, football or vigorous swimming).

They also asked about the ownership of goods such as a car, motorcycle, radio/stereo, TV, computer, land and livestock.

What they found

After adjusting for various confounding factors such as age, sex, country, education, diet etc, they found that people whose work involved either light or moderate physical activity had around a fifth (22%) or a tenth (11%) lower risk of having a heart attack when compared to people whose occupation was mainly sedentary.

However, heavy physical labour did not reduce the risk at all.

During leisure time, the risk of a heart attack was lower for any level of exercise when compared with being mainly sedentary, reducing by 13% for mild activity and 24% for moderate or strenuous activity.

People who owned both a car and a TV, both indicators of a sedentary lifestyle, had a 27% increased risk of a heart attack, compared to those who owned neither a car nor a TV.

The study is published in the European Heart Journal.

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