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Binge-watching TV increases the risk of serious blood clots by 35%, says new study

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“Being physically active does not eliminate the increased risk of blood clots associated with prolonged TV watching,” warn scientists.

Binge-watching TV is linked to an increased risk of developing fatal blood clots, says a new study published today.

Scientists recommend taking breaks when binge-watching TV to avoid blood clots. The warning comes after a study found that viewing four hours or more of TV per day is linked to a 35% increased risk of blood clots than watching less than 2.5 hours.

“Our study findings also suggested that being physically active does not eliminate the increased risk of blood clots associated with prolonged TV watching,” says lead author Dr. Setor Kunutsor.

“If you are going to binge on TV you need to take breaks. You can stand and stretch every 30 minutes or use a stationary bike. And avoid combining television with unhealthy snacking.”

The study looked at the relationship between TV viewing and venous thromboembolism (VTE). VTE includes Deep vein thrombosis (DVT – blood clot in a deep vein, usually the legs, which can travel to the lungs and cause pulmonary embolism) and pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs).

To carry out the study, the researchers did a systematic review to gather all available published information on the subject, then pooled the findings using a meta-analysis technique.

“Combining multiple studies in a meta-analysis provides a larger sample and makes the results more precise and reliable than the findings of an individual study,” adds Dr. Kunutsor.

Three studies with a total of 131,421 people aged 40 and older who did not have pre-existing VTE were included in the analysis. Based on how much time they spent watching TV, participants were classified as prolonged viewers (viewing TV for at least four hours per day) or never/seldom watchers (watching TV less than 2.5 hours per day).

In the three trials, the average follow-up time ranged from 5.1 to 19.8 years. During this time, 964 people were diagnosed with VTE. The researchers looked at the relative risk of VTE in people who watched TV for a long time versus people who never or seldom watched TV. They discovered that long-term viewers were 1.35 times more likely than never/rare viewers to develop VTE.

The association was independent of age, sex, body mass index (BMI) and physical activity.

“All three studies adjusted for these factors since they are strongly related to the risk of VTE; for instance, older age, higher BMI and physical inactivity are linked with an increased risk of VTE,” says Dr. Kunutsor.

“The findings indicate that regardless of physical activity, your BMI, how old you are and your gender, watching many hours of television is a risky activity with regards to developing blood clots.”

The findings, according to Dr. Kunutsor, are based on observational studies and do not establish that watching too much television causes blood clots.

“Prolonged TV viewing involves immobilisation which is a risk factor for VTE,” he adds, “this is why people are encouraged to move around after surgery or during a long-haul flight. In addition, when you sit in a cramped position for long periods, blood pools in your extremities rather than circulating and this can cause blood clots. Finally, binge-watchers tend to eat unhealthy snacks which may lead to obesity and high blood pressure which both raise the likelihood of blood clots.”

“Our results suggest that we should limit the time we spend in front of the television. Long periods of TV watching should be interspersed with movement to keep the circulation going. Generally speaking, if you sit a lot in your daily life – for example your work involves sitting for hours at a computer – be sure to get up and move around from time to time,” he concludes.

Source: 10.1093/eurjpc/zwab220

Image Credit: Getty

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