A warning to parents who like to plop their kids in front of the TV: A new study finds that children who spend too much time watching television are at an increased risk of developing a slew of health problems later in life, Agence France-Presse reported.

The study, out of the University of Sydney in Australia, found that 6 to 7-year-olds who spent the most time in front of the TV had narrower arteries in the back of their eyes, which increases their chances of developing heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes when they are older.
"Parents need to get their children up and moving and off the couch," Dr. Bamini Gopinath, the study’s lead author, said.

The first-of-its-kind study involved 1,500 children in 34 primary schools in Sydney.

On average, children spent almost two hours a day in front of a TV or computer screen and just 36 minutes in organized physical activity.

But those with the highest level of activity – more than an hour or so – had significantly wider retinal arteries than those who spent less than 30 minutes.

The damage appears to be caused by a combination of concentrating for too long on the screen and not getting enough exercise.

“This suggests unhealthy lifestyle factors may influence microcirculation early in life and increase the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure later in life," Gopinath added.

The study is reported this week in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology – a journal of the American Heart Association.

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