Limiting TV time could reduce cases of coronary heart disease, study finds

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According to a recent study, people who watched television for more than four hours a day had the highest risk of coronary heart disease, regardless of their genetic risk score. Photo by mohamed_hassan/Pixabay

It’s tempting to binge-watch TV shows, and it can be hard to get off the couch after just one or two episodes.

But it could be worth it.

The researchers calculated that if people committed to watching just under an hour of television a day, 11% of cases of coronary heart disease could be eliminated.

Although sedentary behavior or sitting for long periods of time has previously been linked to coronary heart disease, this study focused on screen-based sitting, including television and leisure computer use. .

The team also took a person’s DNA into account, creating scores for the risk of developing coronary heart disease based on 300 genetic variants known to influence this common health condition.

“Our study provides strong evidence on the potential role that limiting time spent watching television could play in preventing coronary heart disease,” said Youngwon Kim, assistant professor at the University of Beijing’s School of Public Health. Hong Kong.

“People should try to reduce the time they spend watching TV, but at the same time there are other measures they could take, like taking a break from watching TV and doing some light exercise in between. “, said Kim.

The researchers found that people with higher polygenic risk scores (individual genetic risk) were most at risk of developing coronary heart disease.

Who is most at risk?

People who watched television for more than four hours a day were most at risk, regardless of their genetic risk scores.

Compared to those most at risk, people who watched two or three hours of television a day had a relatively lower rate of 6% of developing coronary heart disease.

Those who watched less than an hour of television per day had a 16% lower rate.

That’s far less time than Americans are estimated to spend watching television. Between 2013 and 2017, people aged 15 and older spent an average of two hours and 46 minutes a day watching television, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. He called watching television “America’s favorite pastime”.

About 659,000 Americans die each year from heart disease, reports the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronary artery disease is the most common 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 television should be recognized as a key behavioral goal for coronary heart disease prevention, independent of genetic susceptibility and traditional risk markers,” Kim said. “People with a high genetic susceptibility to coronary heart disease might have a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease simply by limiting the time spent watching television.”

The study did not find that leisure computer use influenced the development of coronary heart disease.

Why is television guilty?

The difference may be that TV viewing often occurs in the evening after dinner, which is typically the highest calorie meal of the day, the research team suggested. This could lead to higher blood glucose and lipid levels.

The team also pointed out that people tend to snack more when watching television and watch longer, while they are less likely to do so when in front of the computer.

Tracie Barnett is Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She said: “While genetic risk for coronary heart disease cannot be overlooked, it is encouraging that these results suggest that a fully modifiable risk factor, namely television viewing, is linked to very significant reductions in incidence of coronary heart disease.”

Being sedentary affects the heart for several reasons, Barnett said. Sometimes it replaces other healthier activities, including light activities. According to Barnett, who is also a volunteer expert with the American Heart Association, people may be less attentive to their diet when watching television and more exposed to fast food advertising.

“Being sedentary is also associated with less time outdoors, possibly less social interaction, and less exposure to green space and other health-promoting factors,” she added.

Although it can be difficult to regulate certain sitting times, such as sitting down during work, it’s a good idea to take frequent breaks, Barnett said.

Any amount of physical activity or movement is better than none, she noted. Replace sitting with standing and replace standing with walking, if possible.

Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, according to national guidelines.

“More activity leads to greater health benefits, and adults are also recommended to do muscle-strengthening activities, involving all major muscle groups, two or more days a week,” Barnett said. “In addition to being more active and less sedentary, a healthy and adequate diet contributes to heart health.”

There is a well-established association between decreased physical activity and sedentary behavior with increased cardiovascular risk, said Dr. Erin Michos. She is Associate Director of Preventive Cardiology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.

“As pointed out in other studies, a person’s DNA is not necessarily their fate,” Michos said.

Even among those with a high genetic risk of developing heart disease, following a healthy lifestyle can offset some of that risk, she said. Michos also suggested reducing the television.

“Time to put the remote away and get moving! Maybe just listen to one of your favorite shows on audio while you take a nice brisk, heart-healthy walk,” Michos said.

The results were published online Tuesday in BMC Medicine. The study followed more than 373,000 people of European ancestry with no known coronary heart disease based on UK Biobank data.

More information

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics has more to say about American television viewing habits.

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