Spending too many hours in front of a TV screen might raise the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a new California study suggests.
Researchers at the Northern California Institute for Research and Education in San Francisco examined the relationship between sedentary lifestyles, cognitive performance and the risk of developing dementia and found that those who watched four or more hours a day of TV scored much lower on cognitive performance tests in middle age, according to a press release.
The study, which tracked people over a 25-year span, found that those who also reported low levels of physical activity performed worse on cognitive tests. So it may be less about your TV viewing and more about what you're not doing while you are watching TV -- exercising and moving around. Researchers found that study participants with low levels of physical activity over 25 years had significantly worse cognition in midlife. Similarly, participants with high levels of TV watching over 25 years also had significantly worse midlife cognitive function. Study participants with both long-term low physical activity and high television viewing were almost twice as likely to have poor cognitive function in midlife.
The study could have important implications for children and young adults who sit glued to electronic screens for hours. The bright side of the coin though, is that knowing that this sedentary lifestyle comes with a risk of later cognitive decline and possible dementia might serve as motivation to make lifestyle changes.
Researcher Tina Hoang said, “Sedentary behaviors, like TV viewing, could be especially relevant for future generations of adults due to the growing use of screen-based technologies. Because research indicates that Alzheimer’s and other dementias develop over several decades, increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary behavior beginning in early adulthood may have a significant public health impact.”
A study about a decade ago out of Case Western Reserve University resulted in similar findings. In that report, participation in "non-intellectually stimulating activities" was associated with increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, and yes, "television viewing may be a marker of reduced participation in intellectually stimulating activities."
No more reality TV, please.