Binge Watching TV Is Hazardous To Your Physical Health, Not Just Your Mental Health

By Rachel Morris | Thursday, 02 June 2022 05:15
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It's compelling to binge-watch TV shows, and it might be hard to get off the couch after just one or two episodes.

But it could be worth it.

Researchers estimated that if people committed to watching just under an hour of TV a day, 11% of coronary heart disease cases could be eradicated. Though sedentary behavior or sitting for long stretches has formerly been linked to coronary heart disease, this study turned the lens on screen-based sitting, including watching TV and leisure-time computer use.

The team factored in a person's DNA as well, assembling scores for the risk of developing coronary heart disease based on 300 genetic variants known to influence this common health condition.

"Our study provides vital evidence on the potential role that limiting time watching TV could play in the prevention of coronary heart disease," said Youngwon Kim, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong.

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"People should try to reduce the amount of time watching TV, but at the same time, there are other measures that they might take, such as breaking up their TV viewing and doing some light exercise in between," Kim stated.

The researchers found that people with higher polygenic risk scores (individual genetic risk) were at the most eminent risk of developing coronary heart disease. Who's most at risk?

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People who watched TV more than four hours a day were at the greatest risk, regardless of their genetic risk scores.

Compared to those with the highest risks, people who watched two or three hours of TV a day had a relatively 6% lower rate of developing coronary heart disease. Those who observed less than one hour of TV daily had a 16% lower rate.

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That's much less time than Americans are estimated to spend in front of the television. Between 2013 and 2017, people aged 15 and up spent an average of two hours and 46 minutes daily watching TV, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It called watching television "America's favorite pastime."

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About 659,000 Americans perish from heart disease each year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Coronary heart disease is the most standard type, responsible for 360,900 deaths in 2019.

People with coronary heart disease are also twice as likely to have a stroke, according to the study authors.

"Reducing time spent watching TV should be recognized as a key behavioral target for prevention of coronary heart disease, irrespective of genetic susceptibility and traditional risk markers," Kim said. "Individuals with high genetic susceptibility to coronary heart disease could have a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease merely by limiting time spent on TV viewing."

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The study did not discover that leisure-time computer use had any influence on developing coronary heart disease. Why is TV the culprit?

The distinction may be that TV viewing happens often in the evening after dinner, which is usually the most high-calorie meal of the day, the research team proposed. This could lead to higher levels of glucose and lipids in the blood.

The team also pointed out that people snack more while watching TV and watch for more extended times, whereas they're less likely to do that while on the computer.

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