Too much TV may be bad for your long-term brain health

People who watched large amounts of TV in midlife experienced greater cognitive declines in their senior years.

Spending lots of time watching TV in midlife may be bad for your brain health in your senior years, according to findings from three new studies.


The studies found that people who reported watching moderate to large amounts of TV in their 40s, 50s and early 60s experienced greater cognitive declines, and had lower volumes of gray matter in their brains, in their 70s and 80s, compared with people who reported watching very little TV in midlife. Gray matter is involved in many brain functions, including muscle control, vision, hearing and decision-making, the researchers said. Higher volumes of gray matter have been linked with better cognitive skills.

The studies, which will be presented this week at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology, Prevention – Lifestyle & Cardiometabolic Health Conference 2021, used TV viewing as a proxy for sedentary behavior, or time spent sitting. A sedentary lifestyle has already been linked with several health problems, including an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and early death. What’s more, regular exercise isn’t necessarily enough to make up for time spent sitting — a finding that was seen in both the current studies and previous research. 

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