Turn it off: Binge watching TV can cause venous thromboembolism—even if you're fit

Avoiding frequent TV viewing, while increasing physical activity and controlling body weight, could help prevent venous thromboembolism (VTE), according to a study published Feb. 21 in the Journal of Thrombosis and Thrombolysis.

“A recent study reported a positive association between TV viewing and risk of mortality from pulmonary embolism in an Asian population,” wrote lead author Yasuhiko Kubota, MD, MPH, with the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “To date, however, there is no prospective study investigating the association between TV viewing and VTE risk in Western populations. VTE incidence is higher in Western populations than in Asian populations, and thus, there may be a great deal of relevance to a study of TV viewing and VTE in Western populations.”

To evaluate the connection between TV and VTE, the researchers analyzed data obtained from more than 15,000 U.S. adults in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC), an ongoing population-based prospective study of blood-flow related diseases.

The adults were divided into four groups based on TV viewing habits: never or seldom, sometimes, often and very often. During the 299,767 person-years follow-up, researchers identified 691 VTE cases.

The researchers noted the individuals who viewed TV more frequently were more likely to be African American and current smokers, with a history of cardiovascular disease. They were also less likely to meet the American Heart Association (AHA)’s recommended level of physical activity and had higher BMI.

Those whose frequency of TV viewing was very often, had risk of VTE 1.7 times more than the never or seldom group.

Those who met the AHA’s recommended amount of physical activity and viewed TV very often were 1.8 times more at risk of VTE than the never or seldom group. Though fit, an individual could still be at risk for VTE due to TV viewing habits.

“Avoiding frequent TV viewing as well as increasing physical activity and controlling body weight might be beneficial for VTE prevention,” the authors concluded.