How a Game of Thrones Marathon Can Kill You

How a Game of Thrones Marathon Can Kill You
Watching television like this can be a fun way to unwind, but researchers warn against sitting still for too long. Photo courtesy Egloff.

As fans know, the television series Game of Thrones tends to constantly kill off characters, even fan favorites, with everything from a crossbow through the chest to death by dragon fire. It turns out that fans of this and other shows may also be at risk of an untimely death, as researchers discover a link between too much television and fatal blood clots.

The research comes from Hiroyasu Iso, M.D., professor of public health at Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, along with other researchers. The study authors published their findings in the American Heart Association journal Circulation July 25th. The researchers wanted to confirm if there is a link between too many hours in front of the television and pulmonary embolism, which is a potentially-fatal blood clot in the lungs.

The researchers recruited 86,024 people in Japan between the ages of 40 and 70, in the years 1988 to 1990. Initially, the researchers asked the participants how many hours of television they watched each day, along with smoking status, weight, and other health factors. The researchers then tracked the study participants for the next 19 years.

Over the course of the study, 59 of the study participants died of pulmonary embolism. The researchers analyzed the television habits of those who died of a lung blood clot and those who did not, and discovered there is a link between watching too much television and the risk of death.

Those who watched 2.5 hours or less of television each day faced the lowest risk of death by pulmonary embolism. For every two hours more of television viewing each day, the study participants faced a 40 percent higher risk of blood clot death. Those who watched between 2.5 and 4.9 hours of television per day faced a 70 percent increased chance of blood clot death and those who watched 5 or more hours of television per day were 2.5 times more likely to die of pulmonary embolism than their light-viewing peers. It seems that the more television the participants watched, the greater their risk of death from pulmonary embolism.

Other factors besides sitting idle in front of the television can contribute to blood clots, including diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and smoking cigarettes. The researchers accounted for these risks as well, and discovered that after watching too much television, obesity was the next-highest risk factor for death by blood clot.

The authors point out the risk of death from pulmonary embolism may be even greater than the study suggests, since these blood clots are difficult to diagnose and deaths may be underreported. The researchers also point out that deaths from pulmonary embolism may be on the rise in Japan as more people adopt a sedentary lifestyle, and the risk may be even greater in countries like the United States where watching television is even more popular.

Blood clots can form when someone is inactive, such as sitting in an airplane seat on long flights, but someone watching television is also inactive for long periods of time. When someone is inactive, their blood flow is slower in areas such as their leg or pelvis, allowing blood to pool and a clot to develop. This blood clot can then travel to the lung and become lodged in a blood vessel, blocking the flow of blood that is carrying oxygen. This lung blood clot is called pulmonary embolism. If left untreated, this blood clot can reduce the flow of oxygen to vital organs, and about a third of people who have blood clots in their lungs will die without intervention.

The most common pulmonary embolism symptom is shortness of breath, but other symptoms can include weak pulse, fainting, lightheadedness, rapid breathing or heartbeat, irregular heartbeat, clammy or bluish skin, restlessness, coughing up blood, and chest pain that can extend into the arm, shoulders, and neck. These symptoms should prompt a visit to the emergency room to increase chances of survival.

If you are planning a six-season Game of Thrones marathon on your summer vacation, there are some ways you can help keep yourself safe. The researchers suggest taking a break every hour or so to stand up, stretch, and walk around. Even while watching television, you can tense and relax your leg muscles for five minutes to help get the blood flowing. Losing weight and drinking plenty of water can also help reduce the chance of pulmonary embolism. Even if your favorite characters do not make it through to season seven, taking precautions against blood clots can help you live to see the series finale.

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