TV and Your Brain Health

Watching a lot of TV in midlife tied to reduced brain health later on

(RxWiki News) That nightly TV binge might be harming your brain.

According to new research, watching moderate to high amounts of TV in middle age appears to be tied to reduced cognitive function and smaller volumes of gray matter later in life.

That suggests that your lifestyle choices in midlife could have real impacts on your cognitive health as you age, the study authors said.

“While studies have shown the benefits of exercise to support brain health, less is known about the potential consequences of prolonged sedentary behavior such as television viewing on brain structure and function," said lead study author Dr. Kelley Pettee Gabriel, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in a press release. "This is important to look at because other studies have shown that physical activity and sedentary behaviors may have different effects on health and disease."

The bottom line? Healthy behaviors like limiting TV time now may pay off big for your brain later on.

"Engaging in healthy behaviors during midlife, between ages 45 to 64 years in the context of our study, may be important factors to support a healthy brain later in life,” Dr. Gabriel said.

To study the effect of TV on the brain, Dr. Gabriel and team looked at self-reported TV viewing habits in more than 1,600 adults. They then looked at participants' brains with an MRI.

Those who said they watched a lot of TV were more likely than those who said they didn't watch much TV to have lower gray matter volume. Gray matter plays a key role in cognitive functions like decision-making. Having more of it is linked to higher cognitive function, the study authors noted.

If you are concerned about your cognitive health or screen time, speak with your health care provider.

This research was presented at the American Heart Association Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle & Cardiometabolic Health Conference. Research presented at conferences may not yet have undergone peer review.

Information on study funding sources and potential conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.

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Review Date: 
May 21, 2021