Michael Hunter, MD on Medika Life

Your Television Could Kill You

HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF DVT? Deep venous thromboembolism is the fancy medical term for blood clots in your veins. Researchers recently looked at the association between time spent watching television and the risk of potentially fatal blood clots.

We know that being sedentary can increase your risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease. One extensive analysis discovered that sedentary behavior increases the risk of early death, cardiovascular diseases (such as heart attack and stroke), cancer incidence and mortality, and type 2 diabetes.

Prolonged sedentary time is independently associated with poorer health outcomes, regardless of physical activity.

Today, we take a quick look at another peril of sedentary behavior (such as television watching): Deep venous thromboembolism or DVT.

TV watching and blood clots

Watching television is an essential component of our sedentary time for many of us. While I don’t watch much television, you will not be surprised that I spend a lot of my time sitting as I write health and wellness articles.

Somebut not all, studies have linked watching television to a higher probability of suffering from potentially deadly blood clots (for example, in the legs). Now comes more evidence of an association between this sedentary behavior and thromboembolic phenomena.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

Scientists from Finland, Ghana, and the United Kingdom analyzed a collection of studies in a process known as a meta-analysis. The three studies selected included over 131,000 subjects from Japan and the United States, ages 54 to 65.

The investigators tried to control for potentially confounding variables, including age, sex, body mass index (BMI), and physical activity. The subjects self-reported television viewing time.

Results

Prolonged television watching appeared associated with a one-third (35 percent) increase in the risk of blood clots, compared with watching TV for shorter times.

The researchers appropriately note that we cannot establish a causal relationship between television watching and blood clots because of the observational nature of the studies.

Television watching and blood clots — My take

While I think perils are associated with being sedentary, this study has several potential problems. For example, do those who are very active during the rest of the day have a higher risk of blood clots when we sit at our desks?

The study is observational, so we cannot prove cause and effect. The subjects self-reported their television watching time. Modern tracking devices (smartwatches or FitBit-type devices) can provide more objective data.

Do the results apply to younger individuals? Age is a significant risk factor for blood clots and stroke. Wouldn’t it be nice if studies included data about blood sugars and other measures of inflammation?

Despite these criticisms, I will continue to listen to my smartwatch and get up at least once per hour. Movement is one of my four pillars of health (the others being rest, mindfulness, and diet).Physically Fit? My 4 Fitness PillarsYOU ALREADY KNOW ABOUT THE NUMEROUS health benefits of physical activity. But what does it mean to be physically fit…medium.com

Thank you for joining me today.

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Michael Hunter, MD
I received an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a medical degree from Yale, and trained in radiation oncology at the University of Pennsylvania. I practice radiation oncology in the Seattle area.

Michael Hunter, MD

I received an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a medical degree from Yale, and trained in radiation oncology at the University of Pennsylvania. I practice radiation oncology in the Seattle area.

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