Kill your television… or it might kill you

Sugar may be the biggest modern threat to our public health. But it’s not the only one.

Back in 2016, a Japanese study exposed the link between watching TV and increased risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) — the fancy term for potentially deadly clot formation. Curious as to how this connection would play out in a Western population, researchers at the University of Minnesota recently launched the same investigation, only with American subjects.

Spoiler alert: The news wasn’t any better this time around. And anyone who likes to unwind in front of the TV — and I’ll admit it, I’m one of those people — needs to pay attention.

Researchers looked at data from more than 15,000 subjects from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC) — an ongoing study of circulatory diseases that began in the U.S. all the way back in 1987.

These subjects were between 45 and 64 years old at the study’s outset. And after collecting baseline information about subjects’ health — like weight, exercise, and smoking habits — researchers kept tabs on any hospitalizations that occurred, all the way up to 2011.

And some disturbing trends emerged: Like the fact that patients who watched a lot of TV faced nearly two times the risk of VTE compared to subjects who didn’t. And, it’s worth noting, this lethal link held even after accounting for subjects’ weight and exercise levels.

Here’s why that’s so scary: Clots can break off and block other veins in different parts of your body. And if that happens to be your lungs — a condition also known as a pulmonary embolism — the outcome could be fatal.

This is the main risk of deep vein thrombosis (or DVT) — the most common type of venous thromboembolism, where clots form in the deep veins of your legs. It’s a problem that most people associate with long plane or car rides.

But ultimately, any prolonged period of sitting poses this potentially lethal risk. Even an innocent Netflix binge.

That’s why the study authors warn that making up for your hours in front of the TV with regular workouts at the gym aren’t enough to neutralize the threat. A warning that fits right in with what we already know about “sitting disease.”

Yes, that’s a real thing. As I’ve mentioned here before, spending too much time on your rear — whether it’s on the couch in front of your television, or at your desk in front of a computer — can destroy your health. Even if you exercise every day.

Fortunately, though, sitting disease is easy to reverse. And it doesn’t require giving up your favorite shows for good. All you have to do is stand instead of sitting, whenever possible. And when you do sit, get up every hour to stretch your legs and walk around. (Set a timer if you need to.)

These small changes make a big difference. And ultimately — as this latest study shows—they could even save your life.