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Originally published October 17, 2012 at 8:12 PM | Page modified October 18, 2012 at 9:01 AM

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Take Thursday's quake drill to heart

Thursday's earthquake drill also serves as a reminder to make sure you have a healthy heart to deal with such an emergency.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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This "drill" is nonsense. MORE
Perhaps when the next big quake hits, you should run in circles screaming like a little... MORE
Jerry, good points. Of course, Zombieland pioneered the idea of fitness as an... MORE

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Good cardiovascular health would be good to have in any emergency.

I thought I'd add some health information to reminders about the danger of earthquakes.

This Thursday hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians (and millions nationwide) are participating in ShakeOut, which is all about earthquake awareness and preparation. Sooner or later a major earthquake is going to hit here, so it makes sense to be ready for it. And there is more to being ready than stockpiling water and securing bookcases to the wall.

After the big earthquake you'll want to be fit so you can take care of yourself.

If you've watched any of the post-apocalyptic shows that fill TV these days (are we all worried about something?), you know that when the stuff happens, you want to be able to run, and climb and run some more.

Get healthy now and you'll have an easier time of it later. Start by taking care of your fat cells by getting a good night's sleep.

Sleep isn't just about giving the brain a rest, or consolidating memories. Two professors from the University of Chicago led a study that found not getting enough high-quality sleep reduces the ability of fat cells to respond to insulin.

When that happens, fat that should stay inside the fat cells escapes into circulation where it can lead to weight gain, diabetes and other problems.

A person who gets around eight hours of good sleep a night should be fine. Four or five hours a night is definitely a problem.

Eating well and exercising are still important, and researchers keep refining their understanding of what works best.

I like to follow the latest, but I always keep in mind that recommendations can change. Remember when hydration was a craze? It doesn't make sense to go overboard.

But maybe I'll eat a few more tomatoes. A study in Finland found that eating tomatoes or tomato-based foods was associated with lower risk of stroke in more than 1,000 men studied. More research is needed to figure out exactly what is causing the lower risk.

A sure way to lower the risk of a stroke and reduce chances of developing heart disease is to get exercise. How often, how much and what kind is still being researched.

A Danish study based on 10,000 people who were monitored for up to 10 years found that intensity mattered more than the length of exercise.

The researchers were looking for ways to avoid metabolic syndrome, the cluster of factors that contribute to strokes and heart disease, such as a bulge in the belly and high blood pressure.

They found that fast walking and jogging cut the risk by 50 percent and 40 percent, respectively. I don't know whether their findings will hold up, but it's still true that overall, any activity is better than none.

What is increasingly clear is that sitting for long periods is very bad. Some recent studies reinforce that, including several that focus on children, especially those who spend hours in front of the television, or nestled with a computing device.

Most Americans need to move more, sleep more, eat less. I certainly do. One of the reasons I follow the studies is that I need constant reminders to do what's best for my health. It helps me to do better today than yesterday.

Tending to our health has rewards beyond cleaner arteries. A study from the University of Warwick in Britain found the more helpings of fruit and veggies people ate, the greater their happiness and mental well-being.

Maybe they were happier because they knew they'd be able to outrun zombies.

Even if you or I beat the odds and don't have to fend for ourselves in the aftermath of a big quake, we'll feel better, and have more energy.

Jerry Large's column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 206-464-3346 or jlarge@seattletimes.com.

Twitter: @jerrylarge.

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About Jerry Large

I try to write about the intersections of everyday life and big issues. I like to invite readers to think a little differently. The topics I choose represent the things in which I take an interest, and I try to deal with them the way most folks would, sometimes seriously, sometimes with a sense of humor. My column runs Mondays and Thursdays.
jlarge@seattletimes.com | 206-464-3346

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