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Too Much TV Increases Kids’ Future Heart Disease Risk

How many hours a day do your children spend sitting in front of the television or the computer? A recent study published in the American Heart Association journal, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, reported that children who spend significant periods of time in front of the screen have narrower eye arteries in the back of their eyes as compared with their more physically-active counterparts.  Believe it or not, that can cause an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in the future. According to WebMD, the narrower the eye arteries, the higher the risk for heart disease.

Dr. Steven Shayani, Medical Director of Long Island Heart Associates explains, “The blood vessels in our eyes are connected to those that are in the vascular system in our brain, and therefore have a connection to how we respond to stress and other ailments.” The risk of narrowed arteries also includes high blood pressure and obesity.

While it’s no surprise that a more active lifestyle leads to better heart health, this study is unique in that it suggests that even children as young as 6 years old can be setting themselves up for heart disease in the future if healthy lifestyle choices are not practiced from a young age. Researchers measured the average daily screen time (time spent on the computer, watching tv, or playing video games) of just under 1,500 children. What they found was that each additional hour of screen time per day was associated with an average of a 1.53-micron narrowing of the retinal arteries. Children who spent more time engaging in outdoor activity tended to have wider eye arteries, decreasing their risk of cardiovascular disease in the future.  “We strive to promote heart health among all of our patients,” says Dr. Shayani. “Cardiovascular disease does not discriminate against age; therefore, setting an example as adults can go a long way!”

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