A 59-year-old woman came to the emergency department complaining that after watching coverage of the presidential national convention, she didn't feel like herself. Her doctors could tell she was anxious.
She told them that her leg ached and that the pain had begun after she watched the political event unfold on television for about eight hours one day. The patient said she was captivated with what was going on in politics.
She watched the convention news for another eight hours the next day, as her leg pain persisted. She reported getting up only once from watching television so she could use the restroom.
After two days of throbbing pain in her leg, the patient called her son, who is a physician assistant, and told him how she was feeling. He was immediately concerned. "You should go to the ER to get evaluated," he said.
When she came to the ER, she explained the pain in her leg and when it had started. She also said she sometimes felt dizzy and out of breath.
During the physical exam, her doctors noticed that her right calf was swollen and a bit tender.
Her vital signs were also worrying. Her heart rate was very fast, and even though she was getting enough oxygen, she seemed out of breath when she walked or exerted herself in any way.
For someone her age, with no history of medical issues, her inability to catch her breath was troubling.
She was sent to get a CAT scan of her chest and ultrasound of her legs to determine the cause of her symptoms.
The scans revealed the patient had blood clots in both her lungs and another blood clot in her leg. She had developed deep vein thrombosis, a condition in which a blood clot forms in one or more of the deep veins in the body.
The clots had developed from the patient sitting for such a long time while watching TV. Sitting for prolonged periods can slow blood flow in the veins and it may also make blood more prone to clotting.
The patient's doctors gave her two anticoagulants, heparin and rivaroxaban, to resolve her blood clots. She went home from the hospital three days later without complications.
To decrease your risk of blood clots, experts recommend breaking up bouts of prolonged sitting by walking or moving around so muscles in the legs can help blood circulate to the heart. Movement also prevents blood flow from becoming stagnant.
This is why airline attendants encourage passengers to get out of their seats and move around on long flights. It's also why doctors recommend people start walking as soon after surgery as possible.
Researchers from Japan found people who watched TV for more than five hours per day doubled their risk of death from a blood clot in the lung.
With today's streaming services, watching TV for that much and longer is common. Gone are the days of having to get up to change the channel or to go out to rent a movie. Now, an infinite amount of television without even commercial breaks is yours with the push of a button.
These so-called binge-watchers are at risk for blood clots. Video gamers are also at risk. In fact, those who sits for a long time without getting up to move around increase the chance of developing blood clots, even if they are otherwise active outside of these sedentary episodes.
So, if you want to binge-watch TV, play video games, or work a desk job, remember to take a break and move every so often.