Health Buzz: TV Raises Risk of Health Problems, Early Death

10 things that can sabotage your weight loss; is your house making you fat?

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Too Much TV May Spell Heart Disease, Diabetes, Early Death

Life as a couch potato could be deadly. For every two hours of daily television time, the risk of diabetes increases by 20 percent over 8½ years, the risk of heart disease rises by 15 percent over a decade, and the chances of dying from any cause jump 13 percent over 7 years. That's according to a new analysis of eight major studies (including more than 200,000 people) from the Harvard School of Public Health, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The findings suggest that for every 100,000 people, cutting back on TV time by two hours a day could prevent 176 new cases of diabetes, 36 cases of fatal cardiovascular disease, and 104 premature deaths every year. Americans spend an average of five hours a day watching TV, which often leads to unhealthy eating and inactivity, the researchers said. "It's true that people who watch a lot of TV differ from those who watch less, especially in terms of diet and physical activity levels," study author Frank Hu told Reuters. "The combination of a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet and obesity creates a perfect breeding ground for type 2 diabetes and heart disease."

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  • 10 Things That Can Sabotage Your Weight Loss

    So you've got your plot to drop the extra pounds. It certainly seems sensible: You're going to eat right, eat less, and exercise. After weeks of declining dessert and diligently hitting the treadmill, you step on the scale and...only 2 pounds gone? You conclude that something or someone must be sabotaging you.

    You might be right. While experts say weight loss can always be reduced to the simple "calories in, calories out" mantra—meaning if you eat fewer calories than you burn, you'll lose weight—a host of oft-hidden saboteurs may be meddling with the balance. Here's a smattering of them:

    1. Treating healthy foods as low-calorie foods. "A lot of times they're not consistent," says Scott Kahan, codirector of the George Washington University Weight Management Program in Washington, D.C. So while whole grains, avocados, and nuts might be kind to your heart or cholesterol levels, dieters who binge on such foods can, before they know it, add hundreds of calories to the day's total. Enjoy calorie-rich healthy foods, dietitians urge, but ration them out: a quarter of an avocado on a salad or a small handful of almonds for a snack.

    2. Shunning shuteye. Some research has linked shorter sleep duration to a higher body mass index (a measure of body fat) and increased hunger and appetite. Additionally, if you're tired, you might be prone to grab a sugar-laden treat for a midday boost, skip the gym, and have takeout for dinner to avoid cooking. It's a vicious cycle. Aim for seven or eight hours a night. [Read more: 10 Things That Can Sabotage Your Weight Loss.]

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    • Is Your House Making You Fat?

      Your house may be a threat to your figure. Add it to the list, cushioned between those extra slices of pizza and forgetting to work out—because experts say the way you design and maintain your home could play a role in whether you pack on the pounds or keep them off.

      "You can make your environment work for you instead of against you," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, dietitian and author of The Flexitarian Diet. "There are ways to use your house to successfully watch your weight, rather than relying solely on willpower." Here are 8 ways to turn your home into part of your diet plan:

      1. Open the drapes and turn up the lights. Dark environments are more likely to foster binge eating, say researchers at the University of California--Irvine. That's because people are often less inhibited and less self-conscious when they're in dimly lit places—and so more likely to inhale heaps of food with the flair of a speed eater. The researchers describe darkness as a "high-risk environment," so if your home doesn't emphasize window light, invest in some decorative lamps and flood the place with brightness.