Binge-watching TV is linked to potentially fatal blood clots

Take breaks when binge-watching TV to avoid blood clots.

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A new study by the University of Bristol suggests taking a break while binge-watching TV to avoid blood clot formation.

Scientists examined the association between TV viewing and venous thromboembolism (VTE). It found that watching TV for four hours a day or more is associated with a 35 percent higher risk of blood clots than less than 2.5 hours.

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) refers to blood clots in the veins. The disorder includes deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.

For this study, scientists conducted a systematic review to collect the available published evidence on the topic. Then, by using meta-analysis, they combined all the results to get a larger sample and make the results more precise and reliable than the findings of an individual study.

The analysis included three studies with 131,421 participants aged 40 years and older without pre-existing VTE. Participants were categorized as prolonged viewers (watching TV at least four hours per day) and never/seldom viewers (watching TV less than 2.5 hours per day).

Scientists accessed participants’ time watching TV through a questionnaire. The average duration of follow-up in the three studies ranged from 5.1 to 19.8 years. During this period, 964 participants developed VTE.

Scientists then analyzed the risk of developing VTE in both groups. They found that prolonged viewers were 1.35 times more likely to develop VTE than never/seldom viewers.

Dr. Setor Kunutsor from the University’s Bristol Medical School said“The association was independent of age, sex, body mass index (BMI), and physical activity. 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.”

“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.”

“The findings are based on observational studies and do not prove that extended TV watching causes blood clots.”

“Regarding the possible reasons for the observed relationship. Prolonged TV viewing involves immobilization 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.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Setor K Kunutsor, Richard S Dey, Jari A Laukkanen. Television viewing and venous thrombo-embolism: a systematic review and meta-analysis. DOI: 10.1093/eurjpc/zwab220