It’s reported that those who watch TV for five or more hours a day appear to be at a greater risk of dying from a blood clot in the lung. This condition is known as pulmonary embolism. Precautions can be taken when traveling on long plane flights such as flexing leg muscles or standing up and stretching, which may reduce risk.
If you watch a lot of television every day it may increase your risk of dying from a blood clot in the lung. This is revealed from new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.
A pulmonary embolism, more commonly known as a lung blood clot, usually begins as a clot in the leg or pelvis as a result of inactivity and slowed blood flow. The clot can travel to a lung and become lodged in a small blood vessel if the clot breaks free, which makes it especially dangerous.
The Japanese researchers asked 86,024 people to participate from 1988 to 1990. The participants were age 40-79 and were asked how many hours they spent watching TV. Fifty-nine participants died of a pulmonary embolism over the next 19 years. Compared to those participants who watched TV less than 2.5 hours each day, the deaths from a pulmonary embolism increased by:
- 70% among those who watched TV from 2.5 to 4.9 hours
- 40% for each additional 2 hours of daily TV watching and
- 2.5 times among those who watched TV 5 or more hours.
Japan has a lower rate of pulmonary embolism than in Western countries but may be on the rise, according to Hiroyasu Iso, M.D., Ph.D., professor of public health at Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine and study corresponding author. More sedentary lifestyles are being adopted by the Japanese people that are putting them at increased risk. The risk may be even greater than the findings suggest. Since diagnosis is difficult, many deaths from pulmonary embolism may be underreported. Symptoms may be chest pain and shortness of breath as are other life-threatening conditions, and diagnosis requires imaging that many hospitals are not equipped to provide.
There are many factors that could have influenced the findings that would include obesity, diabetes, cigarette smoking and hypertension. Obesity appeared to have the next strongest link to pulmonary embolism. First author and a research fellow in public health at Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, Toru Shirakawa, M.D., said the findings might be relevant to Americans. There are studies that indicate U.S. adults watch more television than Japanese adults.
Because we have online video streaming there tends to be more binge-watching of multiple episodes in one sitting and this may reflect a rapidly growing habit. Those who watch a lot of TV can take easy steps to reduce their risk of developing blood clots in their legs that can move to their lungs. Some suggestions are that after an hour or so stand up, stretch, walk around or tense and relax your leg muscles for 5 minutes while watching TV. This also applies to travelers on long plane flights. Drinking water may also help as well as shedding pounds, if overweight. The participants’ viewing habits before computers, tablets and smartphones were recorded. New studies are needed to determine the effect of these new technologies on pulmonary embolism risk.
-Dr Fredda Branyon