The result of watching too much television isn’t brain rot — it’s blood clot.
New research shows that people who watch TV for more than four hours per day are more likely to develop a potentially fatal clotting condition called venous thromboembolism (VTE), the most common form of which is deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
An estimated 1 million Americans will develop DVT annually, and up to 100,000 will die from it. The condition affects the deepest veins in your body, usually in the legs or pelvis, though it has been known to occur in the arms, too.
The blockage forms due to a lack of vigorous blood circulation, often caused by sitting in the same position for an extended period. As the clot forms, many individuals will feel acute pain and swelling near the site.
If left untreated, the clot could cause lasting damage to the vascular system. Some can even become dislodged and travel to the lungs, cutting off blood supply to the organ and causing a life-threatening pulmonary embolism.
Age, physical fitness and existing health conditions, especially heart disease and high blood pressure, are all common risk factors for VTE — the most prevalent of which is a sedentary lifestyle. Regardless of health, the risk of VTE increases simply by sitting, unmoving, for long enough. It’s one of the reasons why bedridden patients need to be exercised if they’re unable to move.
Researchers reviewed three previous observational studies — all told, involving more than 130,000 patients aged 40 years or older, who had not been diagnosed with a VTE prior to their participation.
After several years, and up to 20 for some individuals, about 1,000 patients in the pool were ultimately diagnosed with VTE at some point after they joined the study — and those who could be called prolonged TV-watchers, meaning they watched four hours or more per day on average, were 35% more likely to develop VTE.
Their findings were published Wednesday in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
“The association was independent of age, sex, body mass index and physical activity, which are strongly related to the risk of VTE,” said lead author Setor Kunutsor, of the University of Bristol, in a statement to Gizmodo. “This means that the relationship we observed between TV viewing and VTE risk cannot be explained by age, sex, body mass index and physical activity. The relationship does not depend on these factors.”
However, they also noted that their findings show only a correlation between TV watching and VTE, but no proof that TV watching causes VTE.
Still, it’s best to get up and take a walk once in a while — ideally every half-hour, according to Kunutsor: “If you want to binge on TV viewing, take regular breaks in-between. You can stand and stretch every 30 minutes.”
He added, “Higher volumes of moderate and vigorous activity can reduce, or even eliminate the adverse risks associated with sedentary behavior.”
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