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Heart disease risk rises with time spent sitting

January 10, 2011|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
  • TV watching--hours and hours of it--may have health repercussions. A new study links watching TV with an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and early death.
TV watching--hours and hours of it--may have health repercussions. A new… (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles…)

Heart disease risks rise dramatically among people who spend two or more hours a day sitting in front of a computer screen, television or video-game box, researchers reported Monday. Experts now think that prolonged sitting -- what they call "recreational sitting" -- is especially harmful to heart health.

Scientists at University College London examined data from 4,512 adults. Screen time was defined as TV or DVD watching, video gaming and leisure-time computer use. It did not take into account time spent sitting in front of a screen at work. The participants provided information about any cardiovascular problems.

The people who spent four or more hours a day on non-work screen time had a 48% increased risk of death from any cause and a 125% increased risk of a heart problem compared with people who spent less than two hours a day on screen-based entertainment.

"It is all a matter of habit," Emmanuel Stamatakis, the lead author of the study, said in a news release. "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."

Researchers will now turn their attention to uncovering what prolonged sitting does in the body to increase heart-disease risk. For example, preliminary research shows cholesterol levels may be affected according to whether people are sitting or standing and moving. The study is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Related: TV ads for fast food contribute to child obesity.

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