Reasons to Take Heart

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 4, 2005 | Go to article overview

Reasons to Take Heart


Byline: VICTOR LEWIS-SMITH

Body Wars

Discovery

IF you're working a 140-hour week to pay off the mortgage on a house that's far bigger than you ever wanted (and that you never see in daylight because you're always at the office), then here's what the future holds for you.

After 35 years of stressful, joyless dedication to the company, and thousands of unhealthy junk meals gulped down in motorway service stations (anagram "I eat coronary vomit stews"), you finally make the last extortionate payment, tell your wife, "I feel on top of the world, now I can retire", then collapse with a massive heart attack, and are dead before you hit the floor.

Next thing you know, you've taken up permanent residence in a six-foot pine bungalow, your wife has inherited your pension, and although she initially comes every Tuesday to lay flowers by your headstone, she soon decides "it's time to move on" and the petals are left to wilt.

Then, before Sainsbury's has even had time to obtain planning permission to bulldoze your graveyard to make way for a superstore, she's already invested in a facelift and breast implants, and is squandering all your hardearned money on some lazy good-for-nothing toy boy with a washboard stomach, who promptly spends it on drugs: not Viagra (he doesn't need that, even though you did), but on cocaine.

You may think that that scenario is highly improbable, but it's not, because the statistics for coronary fatalities are grim enough to give you a heart attack.

According to last night's Body Wars, it's the most common cause of premature death in the developed world, and almost at the top of the European league table is Britain, where 20 per cent of us will die from it (although, strictly speaking, aren't 100 per cent of all deaths caused by the heart stopping?).

This timely series (which will also look at other 21st century pla gues, like prostate cancer, asthma, and manic depression) pointed the finger squarely at our harmful modern way of life, and the coronary case histories they'd assembled proved beyond doubt that victims really only have themselves to blame.

I mean, if you deliberately choose a sedentary lifestyle that involves watching the telly for hours every day, or sitting hunched over a PC, is it any wonder that you'll probably end up keeling over prematurely?

I confess that my heart sank a little when the sheet on a trolley in an East Ham mortuary was pulled back, to reveal that our presenter would be Dr Phil Hammond.

In the past, he's frequently tried just a little too hard to amuse his viewers when fronting shows about the human body, but this time he used humour only in homeopathic doses, and consequently emerged as authoritative and likeable.

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