It’s the couch potato — and while no one doubts that plugging your meat in a seat is unhealthy at any age, a new study finds that little kids who watch the most TV already have the earliest signs of heart disease.
Australian researchers randomly selected 1,492 6-year-olds from 34 schools in the Sydney area, and asked the kids’ parents to fill out questionnaires on how much time each day the children spent watching TV, using a computer, and playing outside.
They found that the average kid spent just 36 minutes a day being physically active… and nearly TWO HOURS a day parked in front of a screen, according to the study in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology: Journal of the American Heart Association (try saying that five times fast).
Then, the researchers photographed the arteries in the backs of the children’s eyes, and found that the couch potatoes had narrower blood vessels — and that each hour of tube time lead to a narrowing of 1.53 microns.
That’s a number so small it’s impossible to picture — but in real-world terms, it’s enough to raise systolic blood pressure readings by 10 mmHg.
The researchers say they have no idea what this means for children, and plan to follow these kids to see what happens as they age.
But we don’t need a study to know that narrow blood vessels lead to increased heart risk in adults. If that process is starting years earlier — in kindergarten! — the long-term news can’t possibly be good.
That’s not the only problem with TVs, computers and video games. Other studies have linked glowing screens to sleep issues, developmental problems and even stupidity — especially if your kid is inclined to mimic wrestling moves or cartoon stunts when he does go outside.
I know most kids would react to a TV-free home as if they’d been sentenced to Alcatraz… but that’s the best way to make sure your child is safe.
And if you can’t quite kick the tube to the curb, at least curb the number of hours your kids spend watching it.