Driving to bad health

So it’s bad enough you have to worry about drivers who text or fall asleep at the wheel. Now, if you spend a lot of time in your car on long commutes to the office, you can add a health concern to your list.

An analysis of more than 4,000 residents living and working in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin, Texas, metropolitan areas showed that long commutes are associated with higher weight and lower fitness levels.

In addition to mapping the distance between each participant’s home and work, researchers at Washington University associated each individual’s commuting distance with such variables as the person’s BMI (Body Mass Index), waist circumference, cholesterol, blood pressure and more. The study also asked participants to self-report information regarding fitness and physical activity.

Overall, those who drove longer distances had higher BMIs, waist circumferences and blood pressure. Long-distance commuters also reported decreased cardiorespiratory fitness and less frequent moderate to vigorous physical exercise.

While the results do not show that commuting specifically contributes to these adverse health effects, the researchers feel it’s possible more time in the car takes away from time people can spend in the gym, and they theorize the commuters probably eat more fast food.

A good cuppa joe

Most of us can’t start our day without downing a mug or two (or four) of coffee. Now a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that people who drink coffee may have a lower risk of death, particularly from “heart disease, respiratory problems, strokes, injuries and accidents, diabetes and infections.”

In technical terms, over the 13-year period studied, there “was a significant inverse association between coffee consumption and mortality.”

Actually, more coffee drinkers in the study died. However, because coffee drinkers are also more likely to smoke, once adjusted for “tobacco-smoking status and other potential confounders,” researchers found the “inverse association” with death they wrote about.

So take that for what it’s worth and factor in their final comment: “Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages, but the association between coffee consumption and the risk of death remains unclear.”