An 18 year-long prospective study on the length of television watching and the risk of pulmonary embolism revealed a positive correlation between the length of time a person watches television per day and the risk of developing a possibly fatal pulmonary embolism. The study was presented at the ESC Congress by Mr. Toru Shirakawa, public health research fellow in the Department of Social Medicine at Osaka University in Japan.
A pulmonary embolism starts as a blood clot in the lower legs brought on by prolonged sitting. People at risk for these blood clots include those who sit for long periods of time, those on oral contraceptives, cancer patients, and post-operative patients who do not move for extended periods of time. The blood clots break off from the leg and travel to the vessels of the lung where they interfere with the oxygenation of the blood. Large blood clots in the lungs can be instantaneously fatal, while small ones can simply cause shortness of breath and low oxygen levels.
The study looked at more than 86,000 individuals between the ages of 40 and 79 years. The study participants were divided into those who watched less than 2.5 hours of television per day, 2.5-5 hours of television per day and greater than 5 hours of television per day. They were watched for 18 years for death certificates indicating a death from pulmonary embolism.
A total of 59 people died from a pulmonary embolism during the 18 year observation period. After adjusting for other variables, it was found that there was a doubling of the risk of pulmonary embolism in those who watched television more than 5 hours per day when compared to those who watched less than 2.5 hours of television per day.
The disparity in the occurrence of pulmonary embolism was even greater in those under the age of 60. In this population, there was a six-fold increase in pulmonary embolism when comparing those who watched more than 5 hours of television per day and those who watched television less than 2.5 hours per day.
While studies have been done on people flying economy class and experiencing a pulmonary embolism, this is the first prospective study on the length of television watching and the risk of getting this serious blood and respiratory disorder.
Researchers feel that people should realize that prolonged sitting at any activity can increase the risk of pulmonary embolism so that measures similar to what are taken by people who fly for long periods of time can be undertaken to reduce the risk of dying from a pulmonary embolism.