January 11, 2011

Couch Potatoes at Risk for Heart Problems

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Spending more than two hours a day in front of a TV or computer seems to dramatically increase the risk for heart disease and premature death from any cause, perhaps even regardless of how much exercise one gets, according to a new study.

The study was the first to examine the association between screen time and non-fatal as well as fatal cardiovascular events. It suggests metabolic factors and inflammation may partly explain the link between prolonged sitting and the risks to heart health.

"People who spend excessive amounts of time in front of a screen -- primarily watching TV -- are more likely to die of any cause and suffer heart-related problems," Emmanuel Stamatakis, PhD, MSc, from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University College London, United Kingdom, was quoted as saying. "Our analysis suggests that two or more hours of screen time each day may place someone at greater risk for a cardiac event."

Compared with those spending less than two hours a day on screen-based entertainment, there was a 48-percent increased risk of all-cause mortality in those spending four or more hours a day and an approximately 125-percent increase in risk of cardiovascular events in those spending two or more hours a day.

"It is all a matter of habit. Many of us have learned to go back home, turn the TV set on and sit down for several hours. It's convenient and easy to do, but doing so is bad for the heart and our health in general," said Dr. Stamatakis. "And according to what we know so far, these health risks may not be mitigated by exercise, a finding that underscores the urgent need for public health recommendations to include guidelines for limiting recreational sitting and other sedentary behaviors, in addition to improving physical activity."

Dr. Stamatakis says the next step will be to try to uncover what prolonged sitting does to the human body in the short- and long-term, whether and how exercise can mitigate these consequences, and how to alter lifestyles to reduce sitting and increase movement and exercise.

SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Cardiology, published online January 10, 2010