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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What double-decker buses taught us about heart attacks

Wonderful article/obituary from the WSJ --

In the middle of the 20th century, the number of people dying of heart attacks was rising sharply in the developed world, but nobody knew why. Jeremy Morris, a doctor who died the week before last, figured it out.

Morris thought there might be some link between occupation and heart-attack risk. And when he looked at the men who worked on London's double-decker buses, he found a striking result: The conductors who went up and down the stairs on the bus all day long were half as likely to die of heart attacks as the drivers, who sat at the wheel all day.

He was admirably cautious about interpreting the results, trying to poke holes in his hypothesis that exercise lowered heart-attack risk. "We set about destroying this observation," he told the FT, which ran a profile of Morris earlier this year.

But the data held up; among postal workers, Morris found, those who delivered mail by bike or on foot were far less likely to die of heart attacks than those who sat behind the counter at the post office. He published his findings in the Lancet in 1953, under the title "Coronary Heart-Disease and Physical Activity of Work."

Morris, who would have turned 100 next year, died of pneumonia and kidney failure, the New York Times said in its obit. He swam, rode an exercise bike or walked for at least half an hour on most days until he was well into his 90s. And in recent years, he often walked up and down the stairs of the London School of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Health, where he was an emeritus professor.

"I'm constantly being asked: 'Your long life, what would you advise?' and so forth," Morris told the FT. "To start telling other people what to do – I'm very reluctant. Except on exercise, where to a large extent I feel it's what I've done myself that's contributed to longevity."

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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