Watching less TV may reduce risk of heart disease, study finds

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Experts say watching less than one hour of TV per day can be good for your heart health

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Cambridge explored how consumers’ TV-watching habits may affect their long-term heart health. They learned that cutting back TV time to less than one hour per day may prevent more than 15% of coronary heart disease cases. 

“Our study provides unique insights into the potential role that limiting TV viewing might have in preventing coronary heart disease,” said researcher Dr. Youngwon Kim. “Individuals who watch TV for less than one hour a day were less likely to develop the condition, independent of their genetic risk. 

“Limiting the amount of time sat watching TV could be a useful, and relatively light touch, lifestyle change that could help individuals with a high genetic predisposition to coronary heart disease in particular to manage their risk.” 

Preventing poor heart health

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from over 500,000 adults enrolled in the U.K. Biobank. The participants answered questions about how often they watched TV and how much time they spent on computers. The researchers then created heart disease risk scores for the participants based on genetic risk factors of the condition. 

The team identified a link between time spent watching TV and long-term heart health. Ultimately, those who watched the most TV also had the highest risk of developing coronary heart disease; however, time spent on computers didn’t affect disease risk. 

Regardless of genetic risks, four hours or more of watching TV each day was associated with the highest risk of heart disease. However, cutting back on TV watching helped participants prevent their risk of coronary heart disease. Those who watched two to three hours of TV each day were 6% less likely to develop heart disease than those who watched four hours or more. That percentage was even higher for those who watched less than an hour of TV each day, at 16%. 

The researchers explained that there could be several reasons why this link between TV watching and heart disease exists. They said consumers tend to snack more when they watch TV for longer periods of time. Another factor is that most consumers watch the bulk of their TV after eating dinner, which is likely to increase cholesterol and blood sugar levels. 

“Coronary heart disease is one of the most prominent causes of premature death, so finding ways to help people manage their risk through lifestyle modification is important,” said researcher Dr. Katrien Wijndaele. “The World Health Organization recommends reducing the amount of sedentary behavior and replacing it with physical activity of any intensity as a way of keeping healthier. 

“While it isn’t possible to say for certain that sitting watching TV increases your risk of coronary heart disease, because of various potential confounding factors and measurement error, our work supports the WHO’s guidelines. It suggests a straightforward, measurable way of achieving this goal for the general population as well as individuals at high genetic risk of coronary heart disease.” 

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