Scientists suggest taking breaks when binge-watching TV to avoid blood clots – with four hour sessions increasing the likelihood by 35%
Blood clots have been prevalent in mainstream discussion, with various vaccines creating international debate and severe COVID causing fatal blood clots in the body. While fears about the virus amplified the potential devastation of blood clots in the body, the truth is that blood clots can be created more innocuously.
For instance, the US Food and Drug Administration estimates that the risk of birth control users developing a serious blood clot is three to nine women out of 10,000 – every year.
Now, a study examining the association between TV viewing and venous thromboembolism (VTE) finds that watching TV for four hours a day or more is associated with a 35% higher risk of blood clots – compared with less than 2.5 hours.
VTE includes pulmonary embolism – blood clot in the lungs – and deep vein thrombosis – blood clot in a deep vein, usually the legs, which can travel to the lungs and cause pulmonary embolism.
Avoid combining television with unhealthy snacking
Lead author Dr Setor Kunutsor of the University of Bristol said: “Our study findings also suggested that being physically active does not eliminate the increased risk of blood clots associated with prolonged TV watching. If you are going to binge on TV you need to take breaks.
“You can stand and stretch every 30 minutes or use a stationary bike. And avoid combining television with unhealthy snacking.”
Published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, the researchers conducted a systematic review to the available evidence on the topic, combining the results in a meta-analysis.
The meta-analysis incorporated three studies with a total of 131,421 participants aged 40 years and older without pre-existing VTE. The amount of time spent watching TV was assessed by questionnaire and participants were categorised as prolonged viewers (watching TV at least four hours per day) and never/seldom viewers (watching TV less than 2.5 hours per day).
The average duration of follow-up in the three studies ranged from 5.1 to 19.8 years – and during this period, 964 participants developed VTE. Analysing the relative risk of developing VTE in prolonged versus never/seldom TV watchers, researchers found that prolonged viewers were 1.35 times more likely to develop VTE compared to never/seldom viewers.
Correlation independent of age, sex, body mass index and physical activity
Dr. Kunutsor added: “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.
“All three studies adjusted for these factors since they are strongly related to the risk of VTE; for instance, older age, higher BMI and physical inactivity are linked with an increased risk of VTE.
“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. Prolonged TV viewing involves immobilisation which is a risk factor for VTE. This is why people are encouraged to move around after surgery or during a long-haul flight.
“In addition, when you sit in a cramped position for long periods, blood pools in your extremities rather than circulating and this can cause blood clots. Finally, binge-watchers tend to eat unhealthy snacks which may lead to obesity and high blood pressure which both raise the likelihood of blood clots.
“Our results suggest that we should limit the time we spend in front of the television. Long periods of TV watching should be interspersed with movement to keep the circulation going. Generally speaking, if you sit a lot in your daily life – for example your work involves sitting for hours at a computer – be sure to get up and move around from time to time.”
The study notes that the findings are based on observational studies and do not prove that extended TV watching causes blood clots.
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