Does Binge Watching TV Shows Affect Blood Clot Risks?

Prolonged TV watching is known to increase the risk of heart disease.

With the invention of online streaming services—such as Netflix and Hulu—individuals are able to access thousands of TV shows and movies. The increasing popularity of these services has caused some health experts to wonder whether sedentary behaviors related to watching hours of TV are increasing.

A new study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2017 suggests that watching TV for long periods of time increases the risk of blood clots, despite physical activity.

“Watching TV itself isn’t likely bad, but we tend to snack and sit still for prolonged periods while watching,” said co-author Mary Cushman, MD, MSc.

Previous studies have shown that prolonged TV watching is linked to blocked arteries, but this is the first to examine the effects on incidences of venous thromboembolism (VTE).

Included in the study were 15,158 middle-aged individuals who were also participating in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study.

The authors discovered that the risk of VTE was 1.7 times higher among patients who watched TV very often compared with those who watched little to no TV, according to the study.

Notably, VTE risk was 1.8 times higher among those who met physical activity guidelines but watched TV frequently compared with those who rarely watched TV.

The authors also discovered that watching more TV corresponded with an increased risk of potentially-fatal blood clots in the extremities and in the lungs, according to the study.

Although obesity was common among those who reported more TV viewing, only 25% of the risk was due to excess weight, according to the study.

These results suggest that limiting time in front of the TV may reduce the risk of potentially-fatal VTEs.

“Think about how you can make the best use of your time to live a fuller and healthier life. You could put a treadmill or stationary bike in front of your TV and move while watching,” Dr Cushman said. “Or you can delay watching TV by 30 minutes while you take a walk. If you must see your favorite show, tape it while you are out walking so you can watch it later, skipping the ads.”

The authors note that in addition to reducing time in front of the TV or computer, individuals can lower their risk of VTEs by maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in physical activity, according to the study.

“Health professionals should take the time to ask patients about their fitness and sedentary time, such as prolonged sitting watching TV or at a computer,” Dr Cushman said. “If you are at heightened risk of venous thromboembolism due to a recent operation, pregnancy or recent delivery, cancer or a previous clot, your doctor may prescribe blood-thinning medication or advise you to wear compression stockings.”