Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Mosquito Versus the Television-Which Is More Deadly?

We all know that living a sedentary life leads to an earlier death, decreased quality of life, and increased in co-morbidities ranging from heart disease and diabetes to depression and some cancers. But mosquitoes carry everything from malaria and West-Nile Virus to Zika and Dengue Fever. The real question is which of these serial killers is worse?

The Sedentary(and Silent)Killer
As I have touched upon many times(see Sitting is the NewSmoking, Quarrelsome Litigant and New Year’s Resolutions), living a sedentary life has huge negative impacts on your longevity and quality of life. There is something called DALYs which stands for Disability Adjusted Life Years. DALYs are important because it helps capture just how much impact a sedentary lifestyle has on your life. DALYs accounts for how many years one lives without being hindered by disability. So while someone who is inactive may live a shorter time, their quality of life years is even shorter. In the US, 1.6 million deaths per year are due to being sedentary. It is estimated that in Europe over 650,000 yearly deaths were attributed to being sedentary(versus only 337,000 from being obese). That's right. It's actually worse for you to be inactive than obese. Obviously worse still is to be inactive AND obese.  Chronic pain, depression, cardiovascular disease, cancers and diabetes are all independently linked to sedentary lifestyles.

The small but annoying killer
Mosquito (or vector) borne illnesses like malaria, and the zika virus wreck havoc on population health, disproportionately in under-developed and developing countries. It is estimated that over a million people die from mosquito borne infections. While this number is less than half of that of a sedentary lifestyle, it is still very high. And as I have mentioned before(see NCD vs infectious disease), mosquito borne diseases can be prevented or minimally reduced with certain protective strategies. Despite this there are still billions people affected in some way on a yearly basis.

The Stats

Mosquito-Borne Illness
Sedentary Lifestyle
Most often seen in:
The Tropics
 Developed nations, but becoming more prevalent everywhere. Disproportionately, hitting lower income areas where environmental factors(safety, pollution, etc) make exercise more difficult
Estimated population affected
 2.5 billion people in over 100 countries are at risk of contracting dengue alone and those numbers are growing!

Everyone is at risk!
Impact on health
 Some vector-borne illnesses don't kill you but just make you sick and prevent you from working, living a normal productive life.
Catastrophic. In addition to death, living a sedentary life increases your risk of developing numerous other ailments. Plus, more importantly, a sedentary life is BORING! You're missing out on life sitting here reading my blog. Go out and enjoy this beautiful blessed day! 
Deaths per year
 Estimated at ~1 million(600,000 from Malaria)
 The WHO estimates over 2 million, but looking at estimates from US and Europe alone, that number seems low.


More deadly?

I put mosquito-borne infections as the more deadly because its presence can actually lead to an increased sedentary life due to avoidance of going outside during peak mosquito times etc. And did you know that mosquitoes are attracted to people who exercise? It's the truth. Body odor, moisture, heat, and increased CO2 and lactic acid levels all are products of exercise and all attract mosquitoes. However, as noted above sedentary lifestyles are linked with more premature death and disability and these numbers are only expected to grow as more and more people move into urban environment and trade their laborious jobs for those more sedentary.

How to keep these killers at bay

The good news is that you don’t need to be training for a marathon to thwart off these negative effects. Simply getting in 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise can do it for you. And studies suggest that you can break that time up in small chunks of 10-15 minute bouts and still get positive effects.

To ward off mosquito-borne illness, two things should be done. 1) Follow best practice guidelines for protecting yourself in infectious areas(treated bug nets, spraying etc) and 2) Do your part in preventing further climate change. Climate change? How does that have anything to do with mosquitoes? Well, as the world gets hotter, the area in which mosquitoes can live and thrive will expand. So while now most of these infections occur in the tropics(hence neglected tropical diseases), they will start creeping into your trips to Disney or visit to Mardi Gras. By then it will be too late. So recycle, reuse and reduce. Even if you don’t believe in global warming, what’s the harm in living a conservative and less-wasteful life?

Now it's time to throw on some bug spray and go for a run:) 

Until next time, 


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