Too much TV now could mean heart problems later

UNDATED (CBS) – Studies show TV and video games can lead to obesity in children. Now new research is finding that time spent in front of a screen may also take a toll on the heart - directly through the eyes.

Franchesca Ceda pushes her son Arturo to play outside. But he loves watching TV and playing video games, and it can be a struggle getting him to unplug.

"I have to pull him away sometimes because he'll sit there all day, all day," said Franchesca.

"I usually say just let me finish watching this last part and then I'll do something else," said Arturo.

Children today spend more time than ever in front of a screen, and a new study shows it can damage their health down the road.

Researchers found kids who spend more time sitting and less time playing have smaller blood vessels in their eyes. That may be a sign of restricted blood flow, which could eventually lead to heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

The eye's blood vessels don't shrink from watching the screen. Doctors say it's from sitting too much and not moving enough.

"Watching television isn't necessarily bad for your eyes, but it's taking away time that you should be exercising and getting your blood flowing," said Dr. Jessica Sessions with the Ryan Community Health Network.

And a little exercise can make a big difference. Researchers found kids who are active for more than an hour a day have significantly wider blood vessels in the eyes.

"I think the message is parents need to get their children out, they need to be active and they need to limit the amount of screen time they have every day," said Sessions.

Francesca gets the message - and is getting Arturo out and about.

The study followed almost 1,500 children. Researchers found, on average, kids spent close to two hours a day in front of a screen and just 36 minutes doing physical activity.

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