October 4, 2012
Can My TV Hurt Me?

You probably have heard about the importance of being active and reducing your sedentary behaviors. Television (TV) viewing gets lots of attention in this regard, particularly with children. But what about adults and our TV watching? A recently published study which used findings from an Australian population-based cohort study found that increased time spent watching TV is associated with higher mortality in general and increased cardiovascular disease (CVD) related death in particular.

The essentials of the study were: 8,800 participants (3,846 men and 4,954 women, mean age of 50). Everyone was tested for glucose levels, fasting triglycerides, total cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol. Those with a history of CVD or stroke were excluded. The participants were grouped into one of three categories - less than 2 hours of TV daily, between 2-4 hours daily and more than 4 hours daily (these were TV viewing habits reported by the participants).

 Here are the main highlights: the study found that each hour spent in front of the TV daily was associated with an 18% increased risk of CVD-related death and an 11% increase death from all causes. The participants who watched TV for 4 hours or more daily had an 80% increased risk for CVD-related death and a 46% higher risk of death from all causes when compared with those who watched less than 2 hours daily. The study also shows that these risks were independent of traditional risk factors such as smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol, diet, as well as leisure-time exercise and waist circumference.

The researchers admit, and I agree, that the study is limited by the fact that it evaluated a single behavior - television watching. However, most experts believe (and our common sense tells us) that the time spent watching TV is a relatively good assessment of overall sedentary behavior patterns. So be aware of your TV viewing and make a goal to reduce the time spent in front of the TV (or do some exercise while watching!!). Go for a walk, do some housework/chores, use a pedometer to track your steps -something active in replacement for that time watching TV. Your health will be better for it.


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