WATCHING TOO MUCH TV
MAY INCREASE RISK OF
DYING FROM BLOOD CLOTS
By American Heart Association News
pending too much time in front of the tube
every day may increase your risk of dying
from a blood clot in the lung, according to a
From 1988-90, researchers asked 86,024
people how many hours they spent watching TV. Over the
next 19 years, 59 participants died of a pulmonary embolism,
which usually begins as a clot in the leg or pelvis as a result
of inactivity and slowed blood flow. If the clot breaks free,
it can travel to a lung and become lodged in a small blood
vessel, where it’s especially dangerous.
Researchers found that compared to participants who
watched TV less than 2. 5 hours each day, deaths from a
pulmonary embolism increased by:
• 70 percent among those who watched
TV 2. 5-4. 9 hours.
• 40 percent for each additional 2 hours of
daily TV watching.
• 2. 5 times among those who watched TV
5 or more hours.
The findings may be particularly relevant to Americans
because other studies indicate U.S. adults watch more
television than Japanese adults.
“Pulmonary embolism occurs at a lower rate in Japan
than it does in Western countries, but it may be on the
rise,” said Hiroyasu Iso, M.D., Ph.D., professor of public
health at Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine.
“The Japanese people are increasingly adopting sedentary
lifestyles, which we believe is putting them at increased risk.”
The risk is likely greater than the findings suggest
because deaths from pulmonary embolism are believed
to be under reported. The most common symptoms of
pulmonary embolism — chest pain and shortness of
breath — are the same as other life-threatening conditions,
and diagnosis requires imaging that many hospitals aren’t
equipped to provide.
Researchers accounted for several factors that might
have influenced findings, including obesity, diabetes, cigarette
smoking and hypertension. After the number of hours spent
watching TV, obesity appeared to have the next strongest link
to pulmonary embolism.
“Nowadays, with online video streaming, the term ‘binge-
watching’ to describe viewing multiple episodes of television
programs in one sitting has become popular,” said Toru
Shirakawa, M.D., a research fellow in public health at Osaka
University Graduate School of Medicine. “This popularity may
reflect a rapidly growing habit.”
If you watch a lot of TV, you can take several easy steps
to reduce the risk of developing blood clots in your legs that
may then move to your lungs.
“After an hour or so, stand up, stretch, walk around, or
while you’re watching TV, tense and relax your leg muscles
for five minutes,” said Iso, noting the advice is similar to
that given to travelers on long plane flights. Drinking water
may also help and shedding pounds if overweight is likely
to reduce risk.
Researchers recorded participants’ viewing habits before
computers, tablets and smartphones became popular
sources of information and entertainment. So new studies are
needed to determine the effect of these new technologies on
pulmonary embolism risk.
The study is published in the American Heart Association