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Watching too much TV may increase risk of dying from blood clots



Spending 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 Japanese study.

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 journal Circulation.


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