Study Finds Binge-Watching TV Linked to Potentially Fatal Blood Clots

The research team conducted a systematic review to collect the available published evidence on the topic and then combined the results using a process called meta-analysis.

New research suggests that taking breaks when binge-watching television will help to avoid blood clots, after data found that watching TV for 4 hours a day or more is associated with a 35% higher risk of blood clots compared with fewer than 2.5 hours.

“Our study findings also suggested that being physically active does not eliminate the increased risk of blood clots associated with prolonged TV watching,” said lead author Setor Kunutsor, MD, of the University of Bristol, UK, in the press release. “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 new study examined the association between TV viewing and venous thromboembolism (VTE), which includes pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis. The research team conducted a systematic review to collect the available published evidence on the topic and then combined the results using a process called meta-analysis.

“Combining multiple studies in a meta-analysis provides a larger sample and makes the results more precise and reliable than the findings of an individual study,” Kunutsor said in the press release.

The analysis included 3 studies with 131,421 participants 40 years of age and older without pre-existing VTE. Television watching habits were assessed by questionnaire and participants were categorized as prolonged viewers (watching TV at least 4 hours per day) and never/seldom (watching TV fewer than 2.5 hours per day).

Follow-up in the 3 studies ranged from 5.1 to 19.8 years of age. During this period, 964 participants developed VTE, and the research team analyzed the relative risk of developing VTE in prolonged versus never/seldom TV watchers. The team found that prolonged viewers were 1.35 times more likely to develop VTE compared to never/seldom viewers. The association was also independent of age, sex, body mass index, and physical activity, according to the press release.

“All 3 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,” Kunutsor said. “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.”

Kunutsor added that the findings are based on observational studies and do not prove that extended TV watching causes blood clots.

“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,” Kunutsor said in the press release. “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.”

REFERENCE

TV watching linked with potentially fatal blood clots. European Society of Cardiology. January 20, 2022. Accessed January 21, 2022. https://www.escardio.org/The-ESC/Press-Office/Press-releases/TV-watching-linked-with-potentially-fatal-blood-clots