Here’s another reason why binge-watching may be harmful to your health

Here’s another reason why binge-watching may be harmful to your health

With addictive hit shows like Stranger Things and Orange Is the New Black, many of us are guilty of spending the weekend bingeing on Netflix. Some may indulge in a Star Wars movie marathon to gear up for its new release next month.

But research suggests you may inadvertently be putting yourself at risk to develop a life-threatening blood clot.

A new study presented at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) annual meeting compared people who watch television more often to people who seldom or never watch it to examine their risk of developing venous thromboembolism (VTE).

According to the AHA, VTE is a blood clot that starts in a vein, causing the flow of blood to slow down or change. VTE is the third leading vascular diagnosis after heart attacks and strokes and affects between 300,000 – 600,000 Americans every year.

Over the course of more than 20 years, over 15,000 participants were asked if they watched TV “never or seldom, sometimes, often or very often.” During that time, nearly 700 participants developed dangerous blood clots. Even participants who met the U.S. government’s weekly exercise guidelines had an increased risk to develop a VTE. The risk of having a blood clot was 80 percent for those who exercised regularly but watched TV “very often” compared to those who “never or seldom” watched.

“It’s not surprising that people who self-report a more inactive lifestyle were more likely to develop VTEs,” says Dr. Paul Silverman, chief of cardiology at the Advocate Heart Institute at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “When people are sedentary and aren’t up and moving around, they have higher risk for developing blood clots because this eliminates the normal healthy pumping function that muscles in the legs provide.”

Dr. Silverman also says this study is limited because people who are prone to watching tv might be prone to other risk factors like obesity.

When researchers controlled for weight, they found obesity was the cause for about 25 percent of the risk. However, lack of movement was still found to increase the risk of VTE by 50 percent. Participants who had the highest obesity status and watched TV very often had about 2.4 times the risk for VTEs.

“We’ve all binge-watched TV before. The content on nowadays is so entertaining and hooks you. It’s easy to get caught doing it,” says Dr. Silverman. “The key is to take breaks. Get up and walk around in between episodes or commercials. I recommend 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week, weight management, blood pressure control and normal health habits to help avoid the risk of developing VTEs.”

Dr. Silverman also advised people who take long car rides and flights to get up and move around, as these activities can also cause VTEs.

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About the Author

Marrison Worthington
Marrison Worthington

Marrison Worthington, health enews contributor, is a public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois. She is a graduate of Illinois State University and has several years of global corporate communications experience under her belt. Marrison loves spending her free time traveling, reading organizational development blogs, trying new cooking recipes, and playing with her golden retriever, Ari.