Winter Warning

You might feel like hibernating, but your heart won’t like it

January 2011

Even in the middle of winter, when our tendency is to curl up in front of the television and wait for spring, it’s a good idea to get up off the couch and get moving.

That’s because there appears to be a positive correlation between the hours you spend in front of a screen — whether it’s television, computer or video game — and your risk of death or disease.

Researchers at University College London examined data from 4,512 adults, concluding that those who spent four hours a day on screen-based entertainment had a 48 percent increased risk of death from any cause and a 125 percent increased risk of a heart problem. This is compared with people who spent less than two hours a day on screen-based entertainment.

“Now, this is an association,” notes Marc Gillinov, MD, a Cleveland Clinic surgeon who holds the Judith Dion Pyle Endowed Chair in Heart Valve Research. “It might be overstating it to say working on your computer or watching a video is going to cause heart damage. This study shows that those activities are associated with heart problems and even mortality down the road.”

Dr. Gillinov did not take part in the study, which was published this month in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Still, the study’s takeaway message is a good one, he says.

“Excess screen time is part of an unhealthy lifestyle. And the antidote, remedy or medicine is clear. The medicine — the prescription — is to limit your screen time and increase your exercise and other healthy behaviors.”

Dr. Gillinov acknowledges that time spent on computers or with other electronic devices is a fact of modern life. Just limit that time, he advises. “Get out there and walk and exercise and focus on a healthy lifestyle.”

Dr. Gillinov and co-author Steven Nissen, MD, holder of the Lewis and Patricia Dickey Chair in Cardiovascular Research and Chairman of the Robert and Suzanne Tomsich Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic’s Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute, are working to complete a book that dispels the myths and reveals the facts when it comes to preventing and treating heart disease. Publication by Random House is expected in early 2012.

To make an online gift supporting the Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute or any area of Cleveland Clinic, visit our secure giving site or call Institutional Relations and Development at 216.444.1245 or toll-free at 800.223.2273, ext. 41245.

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