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If you spend more than four hours a day watching TV or playing computer games, scientists say you could be damaging your heart.

They say the risk of heart disease and premature death from any cause double for those spending more than four hours a day glued to a screen.

The research, conducted by Dr. Emmanuel Stamatakis of University College of Londonís Department of Epidemiology and Public Health reveals "People who spend excessive amounts of time in front of a screen - primarily watching TV - are more likely to die of any cause and suffer heart-related problems.

The findings suggest that two or more hours of screen time each day may place someone at greater risk for a cardiac event.

The study was the first to examine the association between screen time and fatal and non-fatal heart attacks. It found there was a 48 per cent increased risk of all-cause mortality and an approximately 125% increase in risk of cardiovascular events in those spending more than four hours behind the screen daily.

The risks are irrespective of factors such as smoking, hypertension, BMI, social class, and even exercise.

The scientists claim these health risks may not be mitigated by exercise, a finding that underscores the urgent need for public health recommendations to include guidelines for limiting recreational sitting and other sedentary behaviours, in addition to improving physical activity.