Too much television can lead to fatal blood clots, study warns

MINNEAPOLIS — Too much time sitting in front of the television could lead to potentially deadly blood clots, a study by scientists at the University of Minnesota warns.

Sitting for long periods of time impairs the circulation in the legs and feet, which can cause clots in major veins, a condition called venous thromboembolism (VTE). One particular type of VTE, deep vein thrombosis, occurs when clots develop in the deep veins of the legs. Sometimes the clot can be dislodged and pushed into the blood stream, blocking circulation elsewhere in the body. When such a clot lodges in the lungs, for example, it can cause a pulmonary embolism.

Of course, the majority of us sit down while watching television, which researcher say is the most popular sedentary behavior in the world. The UM study focused on Western populations, building on previous research in Japan that linked VTE to prolonged TV program-viewing. Western populations are generally more susceptible to blood clots than people of Asian descent.

Researchers analyzed data from an ongoing study that surveyed and recorded health data from more than 15,000 Americans starting in 1987. Participants were monitored regularly from the start of the study, which initially polled individuals on smoking habits, exercise frequency, and their weight. Researchers also check in with the participants to learn of any hospital treatments they have received, particularly looking for incidences of VTE.

Cross-referencing data concerning sedentary behavior and hospital treatment, the authors found that people who watch television for long periods of time frequently were 1.7 times more likely to suffer VTE than those who didn’t watch television often.

“These results suggest that even individuals who regularly engage in physical activity should not ignore the potential harms of prolonged sedentary behaviors such as TV viewing,” says Yasuhiko Kubota, lead author of the study, in a release. “Avoiding frequent TV viewing, increasing physical activity and controlling body weight might be beneficial to prevent [venous thrombosis].”

Kubota notes that even when a participant was getting adequate exercise, their risk remained higher for couch potatoes. That finding also stood true when weight was also taken into account. The authors say that limiting TV viewing and increasing physical activity can help reduce one’s risk for VTE.

The full study was published on Feb. 21, 2018 in the Journal of Thrombosis and Thrombolysis.

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