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Screen Time Kills

MULTIPLE CITIES: Too much TV time can be deadly. Researchers have linked excessive TV and computer time with heart disease and premature death. Drs. Emmanuel Stamatakis, Mark Hamer and David Dunstan collected data on 4,512 people 35 and older from 2003 to 2007. Of the sample, 325 died during the period, and 215 had major cardiac events.

“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,” said Stamatakis of the U.K.’s University College London. “Our analysis suggests that two or more hours of screen time each day may place someone at greater risk for a cardiac event.”

The data compared people who spend less than two hours a day playing on a computer or watching TV, to those who engage with screens more than four hours a day. The second group had twice as many heart attacks as the first, and were 48 percent more likely to die of all causes. The findings were adjusted for poor health indicators such as high blood pressure and smoking.

The study, carried out on respondents to a Scottish Health Survey that included 1,945 men and 2,567 women, is described as the first to associate screen time with heart attacks. Screen time comprised watching TV, DVDs, playing video games and “leisure-time computer use.”

The association with sedentary behavior is but one factor. Others include biological markers having to do with blood proteins, body mass and lipids.

“. . . 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,” he said.

The research team next intends to focus on the short- and long-term effects of prolonged sitting, and whether or not exercise can minimize the consequences. The results of the TV-heart attack study are at the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.”
-- Deborah D. McAdams