Couch potatoes beware: Too much TV can actually be deadly.
A new study found that people who spend four or more hours daily in front of a screen during their leisure time—primarily watching the tube—have more than double the risk of heart attack and other major cardiovascular events over a four-year period, compared to people who devoted fewer than two hours a day to screen-based entertainment. Those who spent the most time watching TV, surfing the Web, or playing video games after work were also 50 percent more likely to die prematurely of any cause—regardless of how much they exercised. Here’s a look at healthy habits that could extend your life.
Get More Sleep
More than one-third of US adults routinely sleep fewer than seven hours a night, magnifying their risk for chronic diseases, injuries and car crashes, the CDC reported in March. Dimming the lights and turning off the TV and other electronics one hour before bedtime are excellent ways to improve both sleep and health.
Take a Brisk Walk
Almost 38 percent of adults, and about 20 to 30 percent of teens, don’t participate in any vigorous physical activity. All movement counts—and a number of studies show that 30 minutes of brisk walking five or more days a week trims risk for CVD, diabetes and many other diseases. Wearing a pedometer causes people to take about 2,000 extra steps a day (one extra mile), a study at Stanford University School of Medicine found.
Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
For each additional serving of fruits and vegetables people eat per day, the risk of fatal cardiovascular disease drops by 4 percent, a European study involving more than 313,000 men and women reported in January. Those who ate at least eight servings of 80 grams (2.8 ounces) apiece daily had a 25 percent lower risk than those who consumed fewer than three portions a day. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables also helps people slim down, because these foods are filling.
Chronic stress takes a toll on every organ in the body, including the heart, by repeatedly activating the well-known “fight-or-flight” system. Listening to joyful music is both relaxing and beneficial to blood vessel function, a study at University of Maryland School of Medicine reports, while an earlier study by the same researchers also found similar benefits to laughter. Try laughter yoga, a popular exercise program that combines self-triggered mirth with deep yogic breathing to draw oxygen deep into the body.
Snuff Out the Tobacco Habit
Smoking even one cigarette a day increases the threat of heart attack by 63 percent and smoking 20 or more cigarettes a day more than quadruples it. Need more motivation to quit? Tobacco use also boosts risk for diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and many types of cancer. A 2010 study reports that using a nicotine patch for six months makes it easier for smokers to kick the habit.
CONNECT THE DOTS
For more news on cardiovascular disease prevention and healthy lifestyle, read our blog posts, “Women’s Heart Health: New Guidelines from the American Heart Association” and “Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2011.” For additional information on smoking cessation, check out “Another Reason to Quit Smoking in 2011: Bladder Cancer” and “Cigarette Smoking: A Global Health Challenge.