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Are Your Television Habits Putting You at Risk?

by JoAnn Pinkerton | May 03, 2017

We're pleased to have a guest post from Dr. Marla Shapiro.

Marla Shapiro

Marla Shapiro, C.M., MDCM, CCFP, MHSC, FRCPC, FCFP, NCMP 

NAMS Board Member

One of many people’s favorite pastimes is watching TV, and with the advent of video streaming and downloading, people may binge watch for hours. For North Americans, the term “binge-watching” to describe viewing multiple episodes of television programs in one sitting has become popular. A study published by the American Heart Association reports that watching a lot of television every day may increase your risk of dying from a blood clot in the lung.

A lung blood clot, or pulmonary embolism, as the researchers point out, 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 can be dangerous and even lead to death.

A study done by Japanese researchers between 1988 to 1990 asked 86,024 participants ages 40 to 79 years many hours they spent watching TV. Over the next 19 years, 59 of these participants died of a pulmonary embolism. Compared with the participants who watched TV fewer than 2.5 hours each day, deaths from a pulmonary embolism increased by 70% if TV was watched 2.5 to 4.9 hours per day, and there was an overall 2.5 times increased risk of death if TV was watched 5 or more hours per day.

What is even more concerning is that the risk is likely greater than the findings suggest because deaths from pulmonary embolism are believed to be underreported, and diagnosis is difficult. The most common symptoms of pulmonary embolism—chest pain and shortness of breath—are the same as for other life-threatening conditions. The diagnosis requires imaging that many hospitals are not equipped to provide.

Other risks for a blood clot include

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Hypertension
  • Some hormone therapies
  • And of course, sedentary behavior


What to Do
Well, the obvious answer is get moving and push away from your TV, computer screen, and smart phones. People who watch a lot of TV can take a couple of easy steps to reduce their risk of developing blood clots in their legs that may then move to their lungs. This advice is similar to that given to travelers on long plane flights:


1. After an hour or so, stand up, stretch, and walk around
2. While watching TV, tense and relax your leg muscles for 5 minutes
3. Drinking water may also help
4. In the long run, shedding pounds if overweight also is likely to reduce risk

 



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JoAnn V. Pinkerton, MD, NCMP
Executive Director

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