Couch potatoes riddled with heart disease

Turn off the TV. Now!

Your risk of getting a serious heart problem doubles if you spend more than four hours a day watching TV or playing computer games.

If you spend that much time in front of a screen you are extremely unlikely to be doing enough exercise to counteract the bad effects of couch potato-dom.

This is the headline finding of an Anglo-Australian study based on more than 4,512 adults who completed to the 2003 Scottish Health Survey. Yes, we are talking about Scottish people, who eat more cake and fewer vegetables than anywhere. They also have the highest rate of heart disease in the UK, and Glaswegians have world beating levels of heart attacks.

Dr Emmanuel Stamatakis, of University College London, the report co-author, said: "People who spend excessive amounts of time in front of a screen - primarily watching TV - are more likely to die of any cause and suffer heart-related problems. Our analysis suggests that two or more hours of screen time each day may place someone at greater risk for a cardiac event."

But watching so much TV or playing so many computer games is a marker of physical indolence, surely? Lack of exercise is unhelpful for heart health, but other factors may be more significant.

According to a big Scottish study in 2004, low IQ is second only to smoking as a predictor of increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

In other words, stupid people are more likely to get heart disease than clever people. This suggests that stupid Scottish people are more reckless than their stupid English and Welsh brethren. Or … no, we're not going there ...

Stamatakis's research is published this month in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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