Low IQ a predictor of heart disease? On fatphobia and classism.
A recent study has been done looking at a number of risk factors for heart disease to compare them with one another and find out which are the greatest predictors.
The relative strengths of the association were measured by an “index of inequality,” which summarised the relative risk of a health outcome (cardiovascular death) in the most disadvantaged (high risk) people relative to the most advantaged (low risk). This relative index of inequality for the top five risk factors was found to be 5.58 for cigarette smoking, 3.76 for IQ, 3.20 for low income, 2.61 for high systolic blood pressure, and 2.06 for low physical activity.
Get that? Smoking is the highest predictor, followed by low IQ. Then you have low income, high blood pressure, and low physical activity. They looked at obesity (see first paragraph in link) but it didn’t make the top five. Are we surprised?
At first glance, this seems to support a HAES approach. After all, not smoking, moving more, and being seen regularly by a doctor to keep blood pressure controlled probably helps lower your risk for heart disease, right?
But then I start to worry about the class associations here. There are a lot of folks for whom going out to the gym or going hiking just aren’t options as they work two jobs to make ends meet, or have physically demanding jobs that leave them exhausted and aching at the end of the day. Smoking, low income, and low IQ are all related to class issues as well. I guess what I’m seeing here is a picture of how a lot of the risk factors are related not just to cardiovascular disease, but also to a socially oppressed status. This just really poignantly shows how oppression winds up affecting every aspect of our life, including our physical health.
So this study is a win for us FA folks because we can point to it and say, “see? You can stop moralizing to me now about how being fat is going to give me a heart attack!” but it also points to a fail in the discrepancies between the haves and the have-nots regarding access to health care, nutritious food, and adequate recreation time. My initial feeling of delight upon reading the article has been replaced by a deep sadness.
Those of us who are fat do have somewhat of a victory here, but I’m beginning to realize just how much this focusing on “obesity” as the problem is such a nice and easy cop out for those who don’t want to address the injustice of a classist world.