Research News

Frequent and prolonged TV watching increases risk of blood clots

December, 2017    |

A new study by American researchers has shown that increased TV viewing can lead to a greater risk of developing blood clots, even in those who get the recommended amount of exercise.

Carried out by Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington and led by Dr. Mary Cushman, the study has shown that those who rated their TV viewing as “very often” are at a greater risk than those who rated their TV viewing as “never or seldom”.

While leading a sedentary lifestyle has already been linked to an increase in cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, this is the first study that examines the link between venous thromboembolism (VTE) — a disease that includes deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism — and TV watching. Deep vein thrombosis can occur in the arms, pelvis or legs during long periods of inactivity when blood slows down and pools, forming blood clots. Pulmonary embolism happens when the blood clot breaks off and travels through the blood stream to the lungs. VTE can occur at any age but is more predominant in people aged 60 or older. VTE is a growing health concern in the United States and impacts between 300,000 and 600,000 people per year.

The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study looked at data from 15,158 people, between the ages of 45 and 64, all of whom were VTE-free when the study began.  Between 1987 and 1989, the participants reported which category of TV viewing they fell into, choosing either “never or seldom”, “sometimes”, “often”, or “very often”. The participants updated their viewing categories several times throughout the course of the study and in that time, doctors recorded 691 blood clots or incidents of VTE.

Dr. Cushman’s study found that:

  • those who reported their TV viewing as “very often” were 1.7 times more likely to develop VTE for the first time, compared with those who watch TV “never or seldom”;
  • the risk was 1.8 times higher in participants who reported watching TV “very often,” even if they met the recommended targets for physical activity, compared with those who reported their TV viewing as “never or seldom”;
  • more TV viewing led to an increased risk of VTE and while obesity is more common in those who watch TV more often, obesity only accounted for about 25 percent of the increased risk.

Cushman recommends that people “think about how you can make the best use of your time to live a fuller and healthier life. You could put a treadmill or stationary bike in front of your TV and move while watching. Or you can delay watching TV by 30 minutes while you take a walk. If you must see your favorite show, tape it while you are out walking so you can watch it later, skipping the ads.”

The American Heart Association recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week.

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