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TV Bingeing: A Cardiac Consequence of the Pandemic

TV Bingeing: A Cardiac Consequence of the Pandemic
Beginnings of Bingeing
When Bob Pittman and Tom Freston launched their iconic 24-hour-a-day music-video cable channel in 1981, they changed people’s TV viewing habits from simply watching a given program to hooking people on watching their programming for hours on end, the same way they had listened to radio, and simultaneously made famous their slogan, “I want my MTV!” Cut to years later, when Netflix and other streaming services created a new paradigm in entertainment programming by releasing entire seasons of television in one fell swoop to subscribers. These new series—featuring high production values, top showrunners, writers, and big-ticket stars who previously would never have deigned to do television—were not only critically lauded, but became, commercial hits despite their huge budgets. And nearly everybody who streamed these series “binge-watched” the entire series immediately. Whether this meant 8, 12, or 18 episodes, time seemed to stand still while people stared at their TVs in a daze and typically watched one episode after another nonstop.
Study Shows Bingeing TV Is Bad (You Don’t Want VTE!)
A recent study published in the European Journal of Cardiology showed that those who binge-watched TV (defined as more than four hours per day) had a 35% greater risk of developing venous thromboembolism (“VTE”), which are blood clots that include both deep venous thrombosis (“DVT”) and pulmonary embolism (“PE”). DVTs are blood clots that occur in deep veins, usually the legs, and tend to travel up to the lungs, and cause PEs, which are themselves blood clots in the lungs.
The investigators pointed out that being physically active did not protect against developing VTE: the risk came about from being sedentary while watching TV. It is the immobilization during this time that is the risk factor for developing the clots.
Therefore, people on long airline flights who don’t move around also tend to develop DVTs. When you are completely immobilized in one position, blood pools and collects in the lower extremities, i.e., the legs, rather than circulating, which can cause blood clots. Indeed, a host of young video gamers have tragically succumbed to DVTs because they have been staring at their computer screens, sitting in the same position for many hours at a time . In some reports, they have been found with their legs crossed, further obstructing circulation. For this reason, people who have just had surgery are encouraged to move around as soon as they are able, and in the interim, they are often fitted with inflatable cuffs that massage their legs and/or given heparin or Lovenox, which are anti-clotting drugs. 
If You Must Binge, Take Breaks In Between
The authors of the study suggest that if you insist on binge-watching TV, you can mitigate the damage by taking a break, standing, and stretching at least every 30 minutes. That way, your blood has more of a change to circulate.
Bingeing TV Reflective of Wider Issues in the Setting of the Pandemic
We have been bingeing a lot more TV since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic simply because we have been home a lot more. But more significantly, the pandemic has negatively impacted our cardiac health: Firstly, because of the mechanism above, but secondly, because we have been either unable to see our primary care doctors or cardiologists, or have simply deferred doing so, because of the emergency that the pandemic has been. This has delayed the diagnosis and treatment of cardiac diseases. So, people who may be at significant risk of heart disease may not know it.
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1Setor K Kunutsor, Richard S Dey, Jari A Laukkanen, Television viewing and venous thrombo-embolism: a systematic review and meta-analysis, European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 2022;, zwab220

2Man Dies From Blood Clot After Marathon Gaming


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