Watching too much television could increase your risk of death from a blood clot in the lung, researchers warn. The hours of inactivity that are required to watch a TV series can raise the risk of dying from a blood clot in the lungs. Around 2,300 Britons die from pulmonary embolisms in the UK each year and they are often linked to an extended stay in hospital or long plane journeys.
Pulmonary embolism is a dangerous condition, which can be made worse by not moving around. A pulmonary embolism typically begins as a clot in the leg or pelvis that develops due to inactivity and reduced blood flow. The clot can break free and travel to a lung and lodge in a small blood vessel, posing a serious threat. The most common symptoms of pulmonary embolism are chest pain and shortness of breath, which also occur with other life-threatening conditions. Also, diagnosis of pulmonary embolism requires imaging scans that aren't available at many hospitals.
‘More than 2.5 hours in front of the TV raises risk of a clot by 70%. But the researchers said pausing the TV every hour or so to have a stretch and walk round the room could massively reduce the risk.’
This new study included more than 86,024 people in Japan, aged 40 to 70 years. They were asked how many hours they spent watching television and then were followed for 19 years between 1988 and 1990. During that time, 59 participants died of a pulmonary embolism.
Compared to those who watched less than 2.5 hours of television a day, the risk of dying from pulmonary embolism increased 70% among those who watched 2.5 to 4.9 hours daily. It was 40% greater for each additional two hours of television viewing, and 2.5 times higher among those who watched five or more hours a day, the study found.
The results were published in the journal Circulation
These findings may be of concern to Americans, who reportedly watch more TV than Japanese adults, said study first author Dr. Toru Shirakawa, a research fellow in public health at Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine. "Nowadays, with online video streaming, the term binge-watching to describe viewing multiple episodes of television programs in one sitting has become popular," Shirakawa said.
Pulmonary embolism occurs at a lower rate in Japan than it does in Western countries, but it may be on the rise, said corresponding author Dr. Hiroyasu Iso, a professor of public health at Osaka University. "The Japanese people are increasingly adopting sedentary lifestyles, which we believe is putting them at increased risk," Iso said.
If you spend a lot of time in front of the TV, there are ways to reduce your risk of pulmonary embolism. To stand up, stretch, walk around, tense and relax your leg muscles for 5 minutes after an hour of watching television might prove helpful. Drinking water may also help.
While the study can't prove a direct cause and effect relationship, it's likely the risk of death from watching too much television is even higher than what was found in the study because the condition is difficult to diagnose, the researchers said. Also the research was done before mobile computers and unlimited streaming services became popular.
The scientists looked to account for the various other factors that could complicate the results, including levels of obesity, diabetes, smoking, and high blood pressure. They found that the other primary marker of pulmonary embolism, after the number of hours spent watching TV, was obesity.
The researchers expressed concern about the danger posed by binge watching.