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Sedentary behavior (watching TV), arterial health in the news

Is watching TV setting you up for health problems? According to a recent study, the more time 30-somethings spent watching TV, the stiffer their arteries became. Stiff arteries are not a good thing, at any age.

woman watching TVJoel Stager, an exercise physiologist at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, talked with Reuters about the study. Stiff arteries are a harbinger of potential health problems.

“To be honest about this particular measure, it’s more of an association of future problems,” he said. “In other words, it’s predictive of cardiovascular disease down the road.”

Stager was not involved with the new study, but has researched arterial stiffening among college-age people.

Stager also added that the new study cannot prove watching TV is what caused people’s arteries to stiffen. It could be some other factor that goes along with TV watching, for instance, or young people with stiff arteries might be more likely to stay in and watch TV.

The Reuters article reported on a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

“The fact that your arteries aren’t elastic, it predisposes you to develop hypertension in later age and cardiovascular disease,” Isabel Ferreira, senior epidemiologist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, said.

Previous studies have linked TV watching to increased weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes, she and her colleagues write in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The researchers said the “critical cutoff” for TV watching is around two hours per day of sitting. Surprisingly, exercise did not seem to counter the effects of the sedentary time in the BJSM study.

Joel Stager

Joel Stager

Some of Stager’s research was discussed earlier this year at the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual meeting. His research has found that physical activity can improve arterial health.

Indiana University researchers found that people in their 20s already began to demonstrate arterial stiffening — when arteries become less compliant as blood pumps through the body — but their highly active peers did not.

The researchers made a similar discovery with middle-age men and women, finding that highly active study participants did not show the arterial stiffening that typically comes with aging, regardless of their gender or age. A reduction in compliance of the body’s arteries is considered a risk factor, predictive of future cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and stroke. This new study is the first to examine arterial stiffening in a young, healthy population.

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