Snacking in front of a TV at the end of the day? It could be bad for your heart - study

A new study details exactly how detrimental it can be to people's health to sit in front of a TV at th end of the day and snack.

 A person sitting in front of a television, snacking; illustrative. (photo credit: JAN VASEK/PIXABAY)
A person sitting in front of a television, snacking; illustrative.
(photo credit: JAN VASEK/PIXABAY)

Did you find yourself at night sitting on the couch, watching TV and snacking on something small? And is this becoming a habit? A new study by researchers at the University of Cambridge found that more than one in 10 cases of heart disease could be prevented if people cut back on the amount of time they spend doing exactly that. 

The study

According to the researchers, more than one in 10 cases of coronary heart disease are preventable if people spend one hour less a day being static. But, if that's not possible, they suggest at least getting up and walking around to break the habit of sitting in place and watching for hours. Also, give up snacks and chocolates.

Dr. Young Hwan Kim, an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong and a visiting researcher in the Epidemiology Unit of the Cambridge Medical Research Council, told the British news agency PA: "In addition to reducing the time you sit and watch TV, there are other things that can be done, like breaking the sequence of watching TV and doing some light exercises during breaks in the programs.”

"People should try to avoid snacks, especially high-calorie foods like chocolates. These measures can help mitigate the risk of developing coronary heart disease.”

Dr. Young Hwan Kim

 Illustrative image of a person sitting in front of a computer playing a videogame. (credit: PXHERE) Illustrative image of a person sitting in front of a computer playing a videogame. (credit: PXHERE)

The most common symptoms of this disease are chest pain and shortness of breath which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

A computer is not a TV

In the study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, researchers found that 11% of cases of coronary heart disease could be prevented if people watched less than an hour of television daily, but they saw that people using computers had no clear risk. They used data from a UK Biobank study on 373,026 people and also examined genetic susceptibility to heart disease.

The team examined the differences between people watching TV and using a computer at leisure by evaluating their answers to questionnaires.

The findings during a 13-year follow-up showed that compared to more than four hours of television a day, there was a 16% lower chance of coronary heart disease if people watched less than an hour a day, regardless of genetic risk factors.

Those who watched two to three hours of television a day, there was a 6% lower risk of developing the condition compared to those watching more than four hours. The study found that spending leisure time in front of a computer didn’t affect disease risk.

The team suggested reasons for this, including that watching TV tends to occur after dinner, usually the meal with the highest caloric value per day, which leads to higher levels of fats and cholesterol in the blood.

People may also snack more in front of a TV than when using a computer, as watching TV tends to be longer compared to using a computer.

Coronary heart disease is the most common heart disease and the leading cause of death worldwide, so researchers are trying to help people prevent it by encouraging them to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

This disease involves the contraction or blockage of arteries that supply blood to the heart as well as chest pain, shortness of breath and an increased risk of a heart attack.