How Watching Too Much TV Could Kill You

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Binge-watching TV can increase a person’s chance of death by up to six times, new research shows.

An 18-year study of more than 86,000 Japanese participants found that an average of five or more hours of TV per day is associated with an increased risk of death from pulmonary embolism, which occurs when a blood clot suddenly lodges in an artery in the lungs.

The research was presented at a recent gathering of the European Society of Cardiology by Toru Shirakawa, a public health research fellow in the Department of Social Medicine at Osaka University in Japan.

Study participants who watched an average of five or more hours of TV daily were twice as likely to die from a pulmonary embolism compared with those who watched less than 2.5 hours daily. For participants who were less than 60 years old, this risk was six times higher, and three times higher if they watched 2.5 to five hours. (The participants were 40 to 79 years old.)

Shirakawa described pulmonary embolism as a “serious, sometimes fatal” disease characterized by a sudden onset of symptoms, which include chest pain and difficulty breathing. This vascular disease — a disease of the blood vessels — results when a blood clot forms in a vein, usually in the legs, and travels to obstruct an artery in the lungs.

One possible explanation for the study’s association of prolonged TV watching with pulmonary embolism risk could be that a person’s legs remain immobile while watching TV, Shirakawa said:

“The association between prolonged sitting and pulmonary embolism was first reported among air raid shelter users in London during World War II. Nowadays, a long haul flight in an economy class seat is a well-known cause of pulmonary embolism that is called ‘economy class syndrome.’ “

To prevent pulmonary embolism, Shirakawa said researchers recommend taking breaks while watching TV to stand up and walk around. Drinking water is also important to prevent dehydration, he said.

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