Prolonged TV watching increases risk of blood clots, study finds

We know sitting for long periods is not the healthiest of pastimes but COVID and lockdowns and working from home may just have wrecked some of your usual activities.

Now, new research shows that watching television for hours on end has been linked to a higher risk of developing dangerous blood clots – though it’s not all bad news for those who love to binge on the couch.

Settling in to watch a new episode of your favourite show is undoubtedly one of life’s great pleasures. But in a paper published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, researchers have demonstrated a link between sitting for long periods watching TV and a 35 per cent increased risk of developing venous thromboembolism (VTE).

VTE is a varied cardiovascular condition that can present as either deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – where a blood clot forms in a vein deep within the legs or pelvis – or pulmonary embolism (PE), where a blood clot breaks free and travels through the veins to block blood vessels in the lungs.

Read: Warning signs of a blood clot

The study was a meta-analysis of three previously conducted studies into the link between inactivity and cardiovascular problems. Altogether, these studies included 131,421 participants who were aged 54 to 65 at the start of the study.

Average follow-up times ranged from 5.1 to 19.8 years. Across the studies, there were 964 recorded VTE events. All the studies assessed TV viewing times via self-reported questionnaires.

The researchers found that watching TV for more than four hours a day resulted in a 35 per cent higher risk of developing VTE than for those watching less than 2.5 hours per day.

Too much sitting, and not enough moving, has long been linked to many health problems, including many cardiovascular disorders including heart disease and stroke.

But it’s not all bad news, as the researchers did find something of a loophole for those who don’t want to give up their soaps.

Read: The dairy food that can save your heart

“General findings highlight the need for everybody to be physically active,” says Dr Setor Kunutsor, lead author of the study.

“If you want to binge on TV viewing, take breaks in between. Stand and stretch every 30 minutes.”

While sitting watching TV for hours is obviously an unhealthy choice, sometimes being sedentary for long periods is unavoidable, such as at work. Those working in an office environment need to be particularly conscious of their inactivity, says Dr Kunutsor.

“For people whose jobs involve sitting for long hours, take regular breaks in between; they will need to also increase their physical activity levels, as there is evidence showing that higher volumes of moderate and vigorous activity can reduce, or even eliminate, the risks associated with sedentary behaviour,” he says.

On top of simply remembering to stand and stretch every half hour, it is still important to get regular exercise outside.

Read: Five-minute breathing exercise better for heart than a workout: study

The Heart Foundation says regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your heart health.

Increasing your physical activity to the Australian government’s recommended 30 to 45 minutes a day, five or more days of the week, can help reduce your risk of heart disease and heart attacks.

It can also prevent and manage many conditions and diseases, including some cancers, type 2 diabetes and depression.

How many hours of TV do you watch each day? How often do you get up to stretch? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by Brad Lockyer