Heart health tip: limit screentime to 2 hours each day

January 19, 2011 by  

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When flying long haul (and I’ve done lots lately – covering almost 40,000 km in the last 3 weeks), I make sure that I wear the so-called “compression” socks. In addition, I make sure I stand up, walk around and do stretching regularly. This is to help prevent a life-threatening condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT) that can lead to pulmonary embolism.

However, this vascular problem is not only restricted to frequent flyers. It seems that we can easily suffer from DVT any time while sitting at our office or even at home. While sitting in front of our computer screens, to be more precise. An example was

“…a [2003] case from New Zealand in which a young man who spent up to 18 hours a day sitting at his computer nearly died after developing a massive blood clot that formed in his leg veins, broke off and traveled to his lungs.

This disorder has been dubbed as “e-thrombosis.”

I read a more recent report in the New Zealand Herald last week which cited not just one case but a study reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) which goes:

“… the risk of heart attack and stroke for those that spend over the allotted four hours in front of a screen (TV or computer monitor) increased by 113 per cent. The risk of death by any cause increased by almost 50 per cent. Those numbers are as compared to people who spend less than two hours in front of a screen. The findings come from a survey of 4,500 adults…”

I looked up the original source paper, which was conducted by British researchers and used the term “screen based entertainment time”. This new report suggests that it is not only time spent in front of the computer but overall “screen time” which includes time spent in front of the TV or video console that is detrimental to our health. In addition, it is not only e-thrombosis that threatens out health but a whole range of cardiovascular problems that come with leading a sedentary lifestyle. It indicates that each and every one of us who live in the digital age may be at risk for these health problems.

In the coming days, I’d be bringing you some specifics on this issue. Considering the attention that the film “The Social Network” is getting (a film which I saw twice on the return long-haul flight), this is a very relevant and timely topic.

In the meantime, I give you the conclusions of the authors of the JACC study:

“This is a new research area, which has attracted attention only in the past 18 months to two years, but it has implications both for public-health recommendations and clinical guidelines. I think there is a direct message from our research, which is that there should be a cut-off of two hours daily screen time as a maximum during leisure hours.”

Two hours? What can you achieve in two hours? And what about screen time during working hours?

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