Reel Doctor Talk

My T.V. is killing me

by Smitha R. Chadaga MD


I’ve listened to National Public Radio (NPR, @NPR) since I was a kid.  It is the only station I have programmed on my car radio.  One of my favorite shows is Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (@waitwait) – the NPR news quiz.  I hope one day to be a caller on the show and would love to play the listener limerick challenge – where the caller has to fill in the last word or phrase of a news related limerick in order to win the grand prize: score keeper emeritus, Carl Kasell’s voice on my voice mail! This past summer I particularly enjoyed this limerick:


I binge on the shows my friend Brett picks.

But that turns out to be a health threat mix.

Emotions apart,

It’s not good for my heart

I might die if I watch too much  . . .  Netflix!


This limerick was based on a study out of Japan which found that there was an association between the longer people watched television and the risk of pulmonary embolism.  But what exactly is a pulmonary embolism?


A pulmonary embolism (PE) is a sudden blockage of an artery in the lung – which can be life threatening if untreated.  This blockage is usually caused by a blood clot that makes its way to the lungs from the legs.  Blood clots or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) form in the legs, break off and travel to the lungs.


Risk factors for developing DVT (which lead to PEs) fall into three categories:

1.  Slow blood flow – which can happen when you are immobile for long periods of time

2.  Increased clotting tendency of blood - this can be caused by cancer, recent surgery, pregnancy, certain medical conditions, and some medications

3.  Damage to blood vessels – trauma and surgery can lead to this


When you are inactive for a prolonged period of time – say watching hours of Netflix, on a long flight, or bed bound due to an illness – blood pools in your legs and increases your risk of clotting and getting a DVT, which increases the risk of a PE.  So if you have any other risk factors for clotting it is a good idea to get up every hour and move around.  If you are bed bound in the hospital there are ways your doctor can help prevent blood clots.


But if you do fall asleep a lot while you watch Netflix you could invest in these.

Something else I learned about on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.