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November 16, 2018

Why being a TV remote hog is bad for you

Why being a TV remote hog is bad for you. Photo/Joseph Kariuki
Why being a TV remote hog is bad for you. Photo/Joseph Kariuki

Anecdotal evidence suggests that men dominate the television remote control. They may not be home all the time, but when they are the remote belongs to them.

Times have changed. In the old days, TV did not have a channel. It was the voice of the nation and therefore a remote control was unconstitutional. The voice of the nation came on and went off at a designated time.

You made the necessary arrangements to be there to watch when they wanted you to.

Today it is a different story with hundreds of channels available across multiple viewing platforms.

A domestic controller, one who wields the remote with the requisite authority has become necessary to prevent anarchy. But at what risk to their own health?

The classic TV remote hog is likely to be a male, classic type A personality, competitive and impatient with life; that is a heart attack waiting to happen.

They look for stress and studies show that such personalities are likely to be in a higher social class, have higher blood pressure, higher cholesterol levels, smoke more and develop heart attacks at an earlier age than their less competitive peers.

Such people are too busy to relax and always have one deadline after another to meet. Even meeting people socially unless connected to some immediate business outcome is a chore. So they ‘relax’ by coming home to slump in front of the TV, remote control close at hand.

Unfortunately relaxation does not really come through, partly because people who suffer from such personality disorders have trouble perceiving and relating to situations and other people. They maintain a certain rigid way of dealing with events and people irrespective of the context.

In this case it is as if they want to command their bodies and minds to relax right now in the same way they have commanded people and things throughout the working day.

So when the first programme switched on is not to their liking they switch channels, sometimes flicking through entire bouquets and back without pause. Needless to say such actions irritates other householders, who then wish to get control of this same remote.

A proper type ‘A’ personality will not allow this and even a visit to the small room will be preceded by hiding of remote deep into the sofa.

Yet, the sad truth is that watching TV is itself is a health risk.

A couch potato lifestyle, spending at least four hours a day, sitting in front of a screen has been shown to increase the risk of dying from heart disease by about 20 per cent. Each hour spent in front of the television increases the risk of death from all causes by 11 per cent.

Across the industrialised world, which we dream to be a part of, watching TV is the most commonly reported daily activity other than sleeping and working.

In most European countries, Australia and the USA, an average of 40 per cent of free time are spent on TV.

Viewing TV is associated with unhealthy eating of processed foods; sugar sweetened beverages and lower intakes of vegetables and fruits. Very rarely do you hear someone saying they are going to sit watch the latest tele-novella or a game of football with a plate of sukuma wiki.

The end result of excessive TV watching, especially if accompanied by remote control hogging, is a visit to the doctor, when one can no longer ignore the aches and pains; and high blood pressure that come with ‘age’.

The doctor will prescribe a lifestyle change and if needed medicines to control the high blood pressure. One class of high blood pressure medicine prescribed are known as calcium channel blockers.

They are medicines with names that end in ‘ipine’ like felodipine, nifedipine, nicardipine, mlodipine and so on. How do they work? Heart muscle cells contract to pump blood into the arteries. In order to contract properly these muscle cells need calcium. The needed calcium passes through tiny ‘channels’ at the cell level.

Calcium channel blockers prevent the calcium passing through and so cause the muscle cells to relax more, reducing the blood pressure.

The heart is mainly made of special muscle cells, which contract to pump blood into the blood vessels (arteries). The walls of the arteries also contain 'smooth' muscle cells.

When these contract, the artery narrows. The heart muscle cells and smooth muscle cells need calcium to contract. Calcium passes into these cells via tiny 'channels'.

Because they act on the heart and arteries as well, the heart rate also slows down; relieving chest pain (angina) can help control an irregular heartbeat. Calcium channel blockers almost look like the perfect medicine for those football fans who believe that their team plays for them.

Normal people not afflicted with personality disorders know better. The best channel blocking medicine available is to avoid the TV.

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