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Sell the Car, Buy a Cow to Cut Heart-Attack Risk, Study Suggests

Having both a car and a television raises the risk of a heart attack, while owning livestock reduces it, according to a study that looks at the links between possessions and physical activity.

Those owning both a car and a television, which enable a sedentary lifestyle, had a 27 percent increased risk of a heart attack compared with those who own neither, according to the study published today in the European Heart Journal. Conversely, owning cattle or other livestock, which requires some activity, reduced the risk by 22 percent, the researchers said.

While many countries recommend 30 minutes of exercise a day, the study found that just 30 minutes to 60 minutes a week cuts the risk of heart attack as much as following the guidelines does. In the U.S., each year 785,000 people have a first heart attack, and 470,000 who’ve already had one have another, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and disability globally, according to the Geneva-based World Health Organization.

“It’s important to incorporate physical activity into our daily lives, even if it’s just taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking at the back end of the lot when you go shopping,” Claes Held, associate professor of cardiology at Uppsala University in Sweden and lead researcher for the study, said in a phone interview.

Researchers examined the possessions and activities of 10,043 people who have had a heart attack and 14,217 in a control group in 52 countries. Home ownership also raised heart attack risk by 16 percent, while having a radio lowered it by 12 percent, they said.

While the findings support recommendations to encourage the use of public transportation and walking, further studies should examine time spent driving and watching TV, Held said.

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