Watching television for more than four hours a day increases the likelihood of fatal blood clots by more than 35%, compared to watching for less than 2.5 hours a day, a new study says. Also, being more physically active overall doesn’t seem to reduce the risks of these long TV watching sessions but breaking these sessions up with some minimal activity may minimize or even remove the risk entirely.
BACKGROUND: TV BINGE WATCHING IS HERE TO STAY
Since the dawn of streaming, TV binge watching has become a part of our everyday vocabulary. Meant to indicate the watching of a favorite show or movie franchise over a long period of sustained viewing, binge watching is likely not something humans are suddenly going to stop doing.
Unfortunately, such long-duration TV sessions may increase the potential for forming venous thromboembolism (VTE), known more commonly as blood clots, which can put a serious damper on any viewing marathon. Now, that risk has been quantified, with researchers offering a potential, and surprisingly simple solution.
ANALYSIS: TAKE A BREAK AND MOVE AROUND TO REDUCE RISK
“Prolonged TV viewing involves immobilisation which is a risk factor for VTE,” said lead author Dr. Setor Kunutsor of the University of Bristol in a press release announcing the new study. “This is why people are encouraged to move around after surgery or during a long-haul flight.”
According to Kunutsror, that risk exists because when one sits in a cramped position for long periods, blood tends to pool in your extremities rather than circulating, which can cause blood clots. Also, says Kunutsor, binge-watchers tend to eat unhealthy snacks “which may lead to obesity and high blood pressure which both raise the likelihood of blood clots.”
Unfortunately, the same study indicates that “being physically active does not eliminate the increased risk of blood clots associated with prolonged TV watching.”
To reach this conclusion, Kunutsor and his team conducted a meta-study, where the results of three previous studies were combined to tease out the preferred information. All told, meta-data from over 130,000 human subjects were analyzed, specifically those without previous VTE’s, offering the researchers a massive data pool from which they could reach their conclusion.
“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,” said Kunutsor.
The study also took into account each subject’s BMI, age, sex and physical activity, all factors that can affect heart health and VTE risk.
“All three studies adjusted for these factors since they are strongly related to the risk of VTE,” said Kunutsor, “for instance, older age, higher BMI and physical inactivity are linked with an increased risk of VTE.”
After eliminating these factors, the researchers found that folks who watched TV for 4 or more hours at a time were 1.35 times more likely to develop a VTE than those who watched less than 2.5 hours of TV per sitting, regardless of other factors.
“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,” said Kunutsor.
OUTLOOK: THIS TV MARATHON IS GONNA GIVE ME A HEART ATTACK
To combat the risks of VTE and continue enjoying TV viewing marathons, Kunutsor says that taking breaks during these long sessions to move around before putting on the next episode of The Expanse would be a good idea.