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Heart Smart Living
Heart Smart Living

Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.

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Fast Food for Lunch? Better Think Again

Obesity is a fast-growing problem in the U.S. and around the world, affecting one in three American adults. There is no question that obesity may cause quality of life to suffer, in part due to its contribution to many chronic diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and arthritis. A study from Duke University published in October 2010 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine also found that employers in the U.S. bear the costs of obesity in lost productivity, including both absenteeism and “presenteeism” (meaning showing up to work sick, but not working to full capacity), to the tune of $73.1 billion dollars each year.

Work Productivity and Your Diet

Since the type of food we choose also affects the way we feel and the work we do, researchers at the University of Washington decided to look at the interaction between diet, exercise, and body mass index (BMI) on work productivity in 31 different worksites in Seattle. Their study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, looked at the diets and health-related activities of 753 individuals, of whom about 60 percent were either overweight or obese.

Overall, diet and BMI made an important difference in overall health, quality of life and work productivity, but there were gender differences. For women, a high BMI clearly reduced both productivity and quality of life, while for men, the effect was not as strong.  Exercise seemed to have a more important effect on the quality of life for the women in the study.

For the men, the effect of a fast food lunch was striking. The more fast food meals a man ate each month, the less productive he was on the job. Exactly why this was the case was not clear, but when you consider the saturated fat, salt, simple carbs, and sugar, it’s easy to understand how fast food can sap energy and steal motivation.

Brown Bag It

To keep your heart healthy, your brain happy, and your waistline slim, think about packing your lunch. Throw in a carton of low-fat yogurt or maybe a peanut butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread, add some low-fat string cheese or an ounce of nuts, and top it off with a piece of fruit. You’ll impress your boss with your newfound energy, and you’ll finish the workday ready to enjoy your evening. You may even find that you’ve got enough gas left over in the tank for a good evening workout.

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Tags: Diet and Heart Health

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About the Author


Dr. Samaan is an acclaimed cardiologist, writer, and heart health educator.