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Is Too Much TV Bad for your Heart?

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Heart Failure related image Photo: Getty Images

More than one person I know swears that their child’s first word wasn’t the treasured “Mama” or “Dada” but “Happy Meal!” There certainly no doubt that we live in the supersize-me age of fast food, electronic video games, computers, text messaging, and more television viewing choices than we could possibly watch in a lifetime.

Let’s face it, not only are we eating more and exercising less, but so are our children, and it’s beginning to take its toll. As obesity levels in our children and teen increase, so does their risk of prematurely developing cardiovascular or heart disease.

One way to lower the risk of heart disease at any age is to increase the level of physical activity. It seems intuitive that if exercise can lower a child’s risk of developing heart disease later in life, that the converse must also be true. That is, physical inactivity will increase the risk of heart disease.

Interestingly enough, not all researchers agree with this premise. According to a study conducted at Queen’s University, physical inactivity alone isn’t the sole consideration in determining heart disease risk. The real question, according to Valerie Carson, a doctoral candidate in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, is what type of physical inactivity children are engaged in.

According to Carson, no link was found between physical inactivity in children and the future risk of developing heart disease or diabetes. It should be noted that these findings are focused solely on children. Much research exists connecting lack of physical exercise with an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and even premature death in adults.

Researchers did find that some types of physical inactivity were worse than others in terms of predicting higher levels of cardio-metabolic risk in children. When compared with computer usage, television was found to have a greater impact on a child’s future cardio-metabolic risk. This may be because television truly consumes little or no energy, plus, children were often found to snack during television time.

This is not the first time that television has come to the forefront in terms of “bad” sedentary activities. A Harvard study led by Frank Hu analyzed the meta-data of every study conducted between 1970 and 2011 that linked television to increased risks of cardiovascular disease. The findings were significant:

• Two hours of television daily - increased risk for type 2 diabetes, and heart disease
• Three hours of television daily - increased risk of premature death
• Each additional two hours of television - increased risk of type 2 diabetes, 20 percent; heart disease,15 percent; and premature death, 13 percent

Regardless of whether you’re a child or an adult, research appears to support a position that too much television is bad for your heart health. In choosing down-time activities, consider limiting your television time. It just might improve your heart health.


TV Viewing Poses Greater Risk Than Computer Use For Cardiovascular Disease. Medical News Today. 19 Nov 2011. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/237871.php

Rob Stein. TV boosts risk for diabetes, heart disease and premature death, study finds. Washington Post. 14 Jun 2011. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-checkup/post/tv-boosts-risk-for-diabetes-heart-disease-and-premature-death-study-finds/2011/06/14/AG6vEwUH_blog.html

Reviewed November 22, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.