Believe it or not, I do have hobbies other than running – one being binge watching HBO movies and series. I marathoned through True Blood a couple years ago(which significantly dropped in quality after season four, IMO) and recently caught up on newer series such as Ballers and Silicon Valley.

However, I always make sure to get some sort of physical activity for at least an hour at some point during the day. The American Heart Association recently released a study correlating heart health and excessive TV watching.

The study examined the correlation between the amount of time a person watches television and the amount of risk associated with developing a pulmonary embolism or lung blood clot.

According to research published in the AHA’s journal Circulation, researchers found that compared to participants who watched TV less than 2.5 hours each day, deaths from a pulmonary embolism increased by:

  • 70 percent among those who watched TV from 2.5 to 4.9 hours
  • 40 percent for each additional 2 hours of daily TV watching; and
  • 2.5 times among those who watched TV 5 or more hours.

A lung blood clot, known medically as a pulmonary embolism, usually begins as a clot in the leg or pelvis as a result of inactivity and slowed blood flow. If the clot breaks free, it can travel to a lung and become lodged in a small blood vessel, where it is especially dangerous, according to the AHA.

From 1988 to 1990, Japanese researchers asked 86,024 participants, ages 40-79, how many hours they spent watching TV. Over the next 19 years, 59 participants died of a pulmonary embolism. Toru Shirakawa, M.D., study first author and a research fellow in public health at Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, said the findings may be particularly relevant to Americans. Other studies indicate U.S. adults watch more television than Japanese adults.

“Nowadays, with online video streaming, the term ‘binge-watching’ to describe viewing multiple episodes of television programs in one sitting has become popular,” Shirakawa said in a statement.  “This popularity may reflect a rapidly growing habit.”

Researchers accounted for several factors that might have influenced findings, including obesity, diabetes, cigarette smoking and hypertension. After the number of hours spent watching TV, obesity appeared to have the next strongest link to pulmonary embolism.

And just because you’re an active runner doesn’t mean you’re free from risk. Runners and athletes can still experience a Pulmonary Embolism, particularly on long plane flights, something many medical professionals don’t consider, according to the National Blood Clot Alliance.

The study’s authors said people who watch a lot of TV can take several easy steps to reduce their risk of developing blood clots in their legs that may then move to their lungs.

Hiroyasu Iso, M.D., Ph.D., professor of public health at Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine and study corresponding author, recommends taking breaks during long periods of inactivity.

“After an hour or so, stand up, stretch, walk around, or while you’re watching TV, tense and relax your leg muscles for 5 minutes,” he said in a statement.

Dr. Iso also noted that staying hydrated is also important – something we can all agree on.


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