Cut Your TV Time to Prevent Blood Clots

Study finds TV marathons cause lethal blood clots
Watching TV

You might want to rethink binge watching your favorite TV show.  A study out of Osaka University in Japan recently found that people whose average television viewing time was more than five hours per day had twice the risk of fatal pulmonary embolism from leg deep vein thrombosis (DVT) than those who watched an average of less than two and a half hours.

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More bad news, in people under 60, watching television more than five hours per day was associated with a six-fold risk of death from pulmonary embolism compared to watching less than two and a half hours.

Reported at the European Society of Cardiology meeting, this was the first study to examine the connection between prolonged television viewing and pulmonary embolism, blood clots typically formed in the legs that travel to the lungs and block blood flow, sometimes fatally.

Young viewers and gamers, take note

Vascular medicine specialist Marcelo Gomes, MD, notes that the risk of DVT and pulmonary embolism is a well known in other instances of prolonged sitting or reclining, such as in a hospital after surgery, or on a long car drive or flight. The custom availability of television media now presents another high-risk situation deserving broader awareness.

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“In an era where ‘movie marathons’ or ‘TV marathons’ are becoming more commonly seen, when people either go to a movie theater or sit at home watching an entire nine-hour-long movie trilogy or entire seasons of their favorite TV shows in one sitting, and when ‘binge videogaming’ is seen with increasing frequency by pediatricians and family practitioners, this study brings attention to the fact that engaging in such activities for prolonged periods of time can increase one’s risk of suffering a leg DVT or pulmonary embolism,” says Dr. Gomes. He also notes that long videogame or computer surfing have been documented to up the risk of DVT and pulmonary embolism for teens and young adults.

How to reduce your risk

Dr. Gomes offers tips to help you stay safe during your next movie marathon:

  • Avoid dehydration. Drink plenty of water and avoid excessive alcohol.
  • Take advantage of commercial breaks. Get up and walk around. Walking is an important preventive measure against DVT because our calf muscles contract and squeeze the calf veins with each step, helping blood flow through the veins towards the heart and against gravity.
  • Make legroom. Make sure no desk or table legs or other objects or putting pressure on your legs, potentially blocking vein blood flow.

Moderation is best, but if you must binge watch, follow these tips to help avoid a potentially serious pulmonary embolism.

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