Brain and Body

TV Binging Is Linked to a Higher Risk of Fatal Blood Clotting in the Lungs

July 26, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

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Based on a study of over 86,000 Japanese adults.

Researchers at the Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine have some bad news for couch potatoes: watching 5 or more hours of TV per day may increase the the risk of dying from a blood clot in the lung, also known as a pulmonary embolism.

Lung blood clots typically form in the leg or pelvis as a result of inactivity and slowed blood flow, and can become particularly dangerous if the clot breaks free and travels to the lungs, lodging itself in a small blood vessel.

Writing in the journal Circulation, the researchers analyzed data from over 86,000 Japanese adults who were part of the Japanese Collaborative Cohort Study. The participants were asked about their TV-watching habits, as well as information about their body mass index, physical activity levels, health history, and smoking habits.

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Over a 19-year follow-up period, the researchers found that there was a 70 percent increased risk of dying from pulmonary embolism in those who watched between 2.5 hours and 5 hours of TV per day compared to those who watched less than 2.5 hours a day.

People who watched TV for more than 5 hours a day were 2.5 times more likely to die of a lung blood clot, and for every 2 hours spent watching TV, the risk increased by 40 percent. The researchers report that 59 people in the study suffered from fatal pulmonary embolisms.

“Nowadays, with online video streaming, the term ‘binge-watching’ to describe viewing multiple episodes of television programs in one sitting has become popular,” Toru Shirakawa, study first author and research fellow in public health at Osaka University, said in a press release.  “This popularity may reflect a rapidly growing habit.”

The researchers came to these findings after accounting for several factors that could have influenced health, including diabetes, obesity, cigarette smoking, and hypertension.

Further, the authors note that the risk may actually be greater than the findings suggest, as pulmonary embolisms are believed to be underreported since they’re difficult to diagnose.

The authors give suggestions for some simple steps that individuals can take to lower their risk of developing blood clots that can travel to the lungs.

“After an hour or so, stand up, stretch, walk around, or while you’re watching TV, tense and relax your leg muscles for 5 minutes,” said Hiroyasu Iso, the study’s corresponding author. He also advises to drink water, and for people who are overweight, shedding a few pounds is likely to reduce the risk.

To add to the concern, a study published back in February found that being a couch potato was linked with having a smaller brain later in life.

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