Men's health * Healthy living

Warning for England fans : watching TV increases heart attack risk

Warning for England fans : watching TV increases heart attack risk And it's not because of their performance

Watching England play at the 2010 World Cup is stressful enough, but now it seems that the very act of watching TV can increase your risk of heart and circulatory disease.

Of course, it's not the TV that's the source of the risk, rather it's that people spending time watching TV are not engaged in any form of physical exercise. And the well known practice of munching on unhealthy snack foods and pre-packaged processed meals during the game itself only adds to the risk.

The shock findings come from a new study from Cambridge University which found that each additional hour per day spent watching TV was linked to an increase in the risk of heart and circulatory disease by 7 per cent.

The average TV viewer in the UK, who watches 4 hours a day, has a 28 per cent increased risk.

Over 13,000 adults in Norfolk took part in the study over a 10 year period. In this time 373 died from heart disease. The amount of time spent watching TV was found to be a good indicator of who is at risk of a lethal heart attack.

This was still true after other risk factors for heart disease, such as lack of exercise, smoking, obesity, having a family history of heart disease, diabetes and poor diet were taken into account.

If the viewers in the study had reduced their TV time to just one hour a day, the researchers estimated that around 30 deaths could have been prevented.

Dr Katrien Wijndaele warned: "Our bodies are not designed to sit for long periods and we should be aware that, as we put in the TV hours watching the World Cup, our risk of heart disease is probably increasing."

Fotini Rozakeas, cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "This study strengthens the argument that sitting for hours on end watching TV is not good for your health.

"It’s easy to snack on unhealthy foods and slouching on the sofa only burns a few calories."

She urges TV fans to become more active: "People can – and should – enjoy watching their favourite TV programmes or the World Cup without becoming couch potatoes by doing at least 30 minutes physical activity five times a week.

"This doesn’t need to be a trip to the gym; a walk in the park or taking the stairs at work all help make a difference" she added.

The study is published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

This article was published on Thu 24 June 2010

Image © © Tom Davison -

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