Too Much TV Might Dull the Aging Brain

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

The old saying, “TV rots your brain,” could have some validity for folks as they age.

In a new study, middle-aged people who watched television for more than 3.5 hours a day experienced a decline in their ability to remember words and language over the next six years, British researchers found.

What’s worse, it appears that the more TV you watch, the more your verbal memory will deteriorate, researchers said.

“Overall, our results suggests that adults over the age of 50 should try and ensure television viewing is balanced with other contrasting activities,” said lead researcher Daisy Fancourt. She’s a senior research fellow at University College London.

For the study, researchers relied on data from a long-term study of aging involving more than 3,600 residents of England.

Participants reported the amount of hours of TV they watched daily. They also had their thinking and reasoning skills regularly tested as part of the study.

People who watched less than 3.5 hours of TV a day didn’t seem to suffer any deterioration in their brain power, Fancourt said.

But more than that amount, people became increasingly apt to struggle with words or language in tests conducted six years later.

The decline in language skills is similar to that experienced by the poor as they age, Fancourt said.

“We already know from a number of studies that being of low socio-economic status is a risk factor for cognitive decline,” Fancourt said. “If we compare the size of association for watching television for greater than 3.5 hours a day, it has a similar-sized association with verbal memory as being in the lowest 20 percent of wealth in the country.”

The worst deficits occurred in those people who watched more than seven hours of television daily, researchers found.

While only an association was seen in the study, there are a couple of potential reasons why this might happen.

“Due to the fast-paced changes in images, sounds and action, yet the passive nature of receiving these — i.e., television does not involve interaction as gaming or using the internet does — watching television has been shown in laboratory studies to lead to a more alert, but less focused, brain,” Fancourt explained.

Some TV viewing is also stressful, and stress has been associated with a decline in brain power, she added.

The specific effect on verbal skills indicates that avid TV viewing could be replacing other activities that would be better for the brain, said Rebecca Edelmayer, director of scientific engagement at the U.S.-based Alzheimer’s Association.

“You’re spending more time not engaging with your family, your friends and having social conversations, because they’re specifically reporting a decrease in verbal recall,” Edelmayer said. “We know engagement with others in conversation is something that supports and protects verbal recall.”

People who want to protect their thinking skills need to socialize often and engage in other activities that “stretch” their brain, Edelmayer said.

In fact, a long-term study published just last week in the journal Neurology found that exercising both the brain and body during middle age may guard against dementia. Such mental exercise includes reading, playing music, sewing or painting, according to the report.

“The recommendation would always be to stretch yourself and stay as engaged as you can be, whatever the connection is,” Edelmayer said. “We’re asking you for best brain health to go outside your normal passive box.”

The new study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: HealthDay

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Study: Too Much TV Raises Middle-aged Women’s Odds for Colorectal Cancer

Binge-watching series after series might be fun, but too much TV could raise a middle-aged woman’s odds for colon cancer, a new study finds.

Reporting in JNCI Cancer Spectrum, researchers tracked data for more than 89,000 U.S. women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study.

The investigators found 118 cases of “young-onset” colon cancer — diagnosed under age 50 — occurring over two decades of follow-up.

The study couldn’t prove cause and effect. But it found that women who’d watched more than an hour of TV a day had a 12 percent increased risk of colorectal cancer, compared with those who spent less time in front of the TV. That number rose to 70 percent for those who watched more than two hours of TV daily, the study authors said.

That trend was seen even after accounting for women’s history of colon cancer, exercise habits or weight, according to the research team from Washington University in St. Louis.

The finding suggests that time spent sitting in front of televisions “may be an altogether distinct risk factor for young-onset colorectal cancer,” study co-senior author Yin Cao said in a journal news release. She’s assistant professor of surgery at the university.

The connection with TV watching was stronger for rectal cancer than for colon cancer, according to the researchers.

Young-onset colorectal cancer is typically more aggressive and is becoming more common in the United States and worldwide. At the same time, better screening has brought about large declines in colon and rectal cancer for older people, the researchers noted.

Responding to these trends, last year the American Cancer Society altered its colon cancer screening guidelines. The ACS’ recommended age for first colonoscopy was lowered to 45, not 50 as in prior guidelines.

One expert unconnected to the study called the new findings “very interesting.”

“As young people are spending more time in front of the TV, especially with binge-watching from one of the streaming services, it would be important to make them aware of this additional risk, besides those of obesity and physical inactivity,” said Dr. Aaron Harrison. He’s chair of internal medicine at Northwell Health’s Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y.

Another gastro specialist agreed.

“This analysis of a well-known data set makes the association of increased TV time with an increase risk of rectal cancer in an age group as young as 25,” said Dr. Arun Swaminath, who directs the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

He stressed that the findings “will need broader confirmation,” however.

Source: HealthDay


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Watching Too Much TV Could Boost Your Odds for a Blood Clot

Hours spent binge-watching that hot new series might feel great, but it’s doing no favors for your blood vessels, new research shows.

The study found that people who spend too much time in front of the TV are at increased risk for blood clots in their veins — a condition called venous thromboembolism (VTE).

These clots, which often occur in the legs, can dislodge and travel to the lungs, causing a potentially deadly condition called pulmonary embolism.

The clots have also been nicknamed “economy-class syndrome,” after cases occurred among passengers on long-haul flights.

As the University of Minnesota researchers explained, sitting for long periods of time can cause blood clots to form, because normal circulation through the legs and feet is impaired.

So, could prolonged TV viewing raise the risk? To find out, the researchers analyzed data from more than 15,000 Americans, aged 45 to 64, in a long-term study that began in 1987.

As of 2011, nearly 700 cases of VTE had occurred among the participants.

Those who watched a lot of television had a 70 percent higher risk of developing one of the clots than people who never or seldom watched TV. This risk remained high even after factors such as the person’s weight or exercise levels were taken into account.

The research was published online in the Journal of Thrombosis and Thrombolysis.

The study couldn’t prove that it was the TV watching, specifically, that caused the uptick in clots, it could only point to an association.

Still, “even individuals who regularly engage in physical activity should not ignore the potential harms of prolonged sedentary behaviors such as TV viewing,” lead author Yasuhiko Kubota, of the University of Minnesota, said in a journal news release.

Two heart specialists unconnected to the study agreed that “couch potato” lifestyles can certainly impact health.

Dr. Maja Zaric is an interventional cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She said there’s “undoubtedly” a connection between time spent watching TV and a person’s odds for blood clots, but she wished the research had been more specific about just how much TV time was involved.

Zaric pointed out that participants simply estimated their TV viewing time as “never or seldom,” “sometimes,” “often” or “very often” — and those assessments could be very subjective.

“It would be interesting to see how much actual time in hours was there in each category,” Zaric said. “There may be a different view on the amount of TV watching between an obese subject with advanced arthritis and chronic back pain and a fit subject at healthy weight.”

Dr. David Friedman is chief of heart failure services at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Hospital, in Valley Stream, N.Y. He said, “this is another study indicating the need for people to be more physically active and fit, move more, and keep weight in check — and probably watch less TV.”

Friedman suggested that as people become more mobile and watch television on their smart devices, “they could improve aerobic physical fitness and watch their favorite TV programs on the go as a way to help mitigate this effect.”

Source: HealthDay


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Excessive Daily TV Watching May Increase Risk of Death

Watching a lot of television every day may increase your risk of dying from a blood clot in the lung, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

A lung blood clot, known medically as a pulmonary embolism, usually begins as a clot in the leg or pelvis as a result of inactivity and slowed blood flow. If the clot breaks free, it can travel to a lung and become lodged in a small blood vessel, where it is especially dangerous.

From 1988 to 1990, Japanese researchers asked 86,024 participants, age 40-79, how many hours they spent watching TV. Over the next 19 years, 59 participants died of a pulmonary embolism.

Researchers found that compared to participants who watched TV less than 2.5 hours each day, deaths from a pulmonary embolism increased by:

  • 70 percent among those who watched TV from 2.5 to 4.9 hours
  • 40 percent for each additional 2 hours of daily TV watching; and
  • 2.5 times among those who watched TV 5 or more hours.

“Pulmonary embolism occurs at a lower rate in Japan than it does in Western countries, but it may be on the rise,” said Hiroyasu Iso, M.D., Ph.D., professor of public health at Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine and study corresponding author. “The Japanese people are increasingly adopting sedentary lifestyles, which we believe is putting them at increased risk.”

Authors noted that the risk is likely greater than the findings suggest. Deaths from pulmonary embolism are believed to be underreported because diagnosis is difficult. The most common symptoms of pulmonary embolism – chest pain and shortness of breath – are the same as other life-threatening conditions, and diagnosis requires imaging that many hospitals are not equipped to provide.

Researchers accounted for several factors that might have influenced findings, including obesity, diabetes, cigarette smoking and hypertension. After the number of hours spent watching TV, obesity appeared to have the next strongest link to pulmonary embolism.

Toru Shirakawa, M.D., study first author and a research fellow in public health at Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, said the findings may be particularly relevant to Americans. Other studies indicate U.S. adults watch more television than Japanese adults.

“Nowadays, with online video streaming, the term ‘binge-watching’ to describe viewing multiple episodes of television programs in one sitting has become popular,” Shirakawa said. “This popularity may reflect a rapidly growing habit.”

Authors said people who watch a lot of TV can take several easy steps to reduce their risk of developing blood clots in their legs that may then move to their lungs.

“After an hour or so, stand up, stretch, walk around, or while you’re watching TV, tense and relax your leg muscles for 5 minutes,” said Iso, noting this advice is similar to that given to travelers on long plane flights. He added that drinking water may also help and, in the long run, shedding pounds if overweight is likely to reduce risk.

The study recorded participants’ viewing habits before computers, tablets and smartphones became popular sources of information and entertainment. Authors believe new studies are needed to determine the effect of these new technologies on pulmonary embolism risk.

Source: American Heart Association


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Prolonged TV Viewing Linked to 8 Leading Causes of Death in US

In addition to cancer and heart disease, many hours of TV viewing associated with risk for 6 other causes of death, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine

On average, 80% of American adults watch 3.5 hours of television per day and multiple observational studies have demonstrated a link between TV viewing and poorer health. In this new study published in the December issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, investigators reported an association between increasing hours of television viewing per day and increasing risk of death from most of the major causes of death in the United States.

Virtually all Americans (92%) have a television at home and watching TV consumes more than half of their available leisure time, potentially displacing more physical activities. Previous studies had reported a relationship between TV viewing and elevated risk of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease. In this study, researchers at the National Cancer Institute looked at more than 221,000 individuals aged 50-71 years old who were free of chronic disease at study entry. They confirmed the association for higher mortality risk from cancer and heart disease. In addition, they identified new associations with higher risk of death from most of the leading causes of death in the U.S., such as, diabetes, influenza/pneumonia, Parkinson’s disease, and liver disease.

“We know that television viewing is the most prevalent leisure-time sedentary behavior and our working hypothesis is that it is an indicator of overall physical inactivity. In this context, our results fit within a growing body of research indicating that too much sitting can have many different adverse health effects,” explained lead investigator Sarah K. Keadle, PhD, MPH, Cancer Prevention Fellow, Nutritional Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Keadle cautioned that although each of the associations observed have plausible biological mechanisms, several associations are being reported for the first time and additional research is needed to replicate these findings and to understand the associations more completely. “Our study has generated new clues about the role of sedentary behavior and health and we hope that it will spur additional research.”

The study found that compared to those who watched less than one hour per day, individuals who reported watching 3-4 hours of television watching per day were 15% more likely to die from any cause; those who watched 7 or more hours were 47% more likely to die over the study period. Risk began to increase at 3-4 hours per day for most causes they examined. The investigators took a number of other factors into consideration that might explain the associations observed, such as caloric and alcohol intake, smoking, and the health status of the population, but when they controlled for these factors in statistical models, the associations remained.

Another important finding of the study is that the detrimental effects of TV viewing extended to both active and inactive individuals, “Although we found that exercise did not fully eliminate risks associated with prolonged television viewing, certainly for those who want to reduce their sedentary television viewing, exercise should be the first choice to replace that previously inactive time,” said Dr. Keadle.

Investigators caution that more research is needed to explore connection between TV viewing and mortality and whether these same associations are found when we consider sitting in other contexts, such as driving, working, or doing other sedentary leisure-time activities. “Older adults watch the most TV of any demographic group in the U.S.,” concluded Dr. Keadle. “Given the increasing age of the population, the high prevalence of TV viewing in leisure time, and the broad range of mortality outcomes for which risk appears to be increased, prolonged TV viewing may be a more important target for public health intervention than previously recognized.”

Source: EurekAlert!