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We’re All Glued To Our Screens Right Now. Here’s How You Can Protect Your Eyes

With much of the globe now under coronavirus-related restrictions, we have never been so tethered to our screens – for work, to connect with friends, to unwind or to distract ourselves.

One new estimate suggested that adults are spending more than 13 hours a day using screens, a spike up from 10 hours a day a year ago.

With children cut off from physically attending school, they are more reliant on laptops and tablets for online lessons and entertainment.

And with our new routines likely to have a lot more screen time for the foreseeable future, experts say it’s important to learn how to protect our eyes from suffering as a result.

While there is no evidence of long-term eye damage from extended use of smartphones, computer screens or other devices, prolonged use can sometimes lead to blurred vision, eye fatigue, dry or irritated eyes and headaches, according to Moorfield Eye Hospital in London.

Dr. Raj Maturi, the clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and a retina specialist, called these symptoms “digital vision syndrome.”

He, along with the doctors at the Moorfield Eye Hospital, recommended a 20-20-20 approach — for every 20 minutes spent at a screen you must take a break and look 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.

“When you are looking at a close target, your eyes are just training that one muscle at all time, and looking into the distance can relieve it,” he said.

Don’t forget to blink

While it’s close work, rather than screen use per se, that strains our eyes. Dr Maturi said that looking at bright devices can make us blink less, which leaves our eyes feeling dry.

“When things are bright, we blink less. It’s behavioral. So we can train ourselves to blink more often and blink fully,” he said.

If you’re already suffering from dry eyes, he recommended the use of artificial tears. Moorfields Eye Hospital also suggested using a humidifier, as well as making sure your work station is set up correctly.

The top of your computer screen should be in line with your eyes and about 18 to 30 inches from where you’re sitting and tilted back slightly, the hospital said in a blog post in April.

Dr. Rachel Bishop, a spokesperson for the National Eye Institute, agreed that where your screen is positioned is important.

“If you are looking down, then your eyelid is shut a bit and you’re not having as much evaporation – which can help prevent dry eyes. If you’re looking up high, your eye dries much quicker,” she said.

Other steps you can take include dimming the surrounding lights so that the screen is brighter in comparison and cleaning your computer screen regularly to avoid dust buildup, which can obscure the screen and cause eye irritation.

If you or your children continue to have vision problems after making these fixes, experts recommended seeking advice from an ophthalmologist or optician as it could be a sign of an uncorrected eye problem like long-sightedness or astigmatism.

If you’re older than your late 30s and unable to see an eye care professional because of lockdown restrictions, there would be no harm in buying a cheap pair of drugstore reading glasses and seeing if they help, said Bishop.

“The focusing muscle in your eye changes as you age. You can focus up close when you’re 20 for hours at a time and have no problems. But that ability declines as you age,” said Dr Bishop.

“For people who aren’t eager to have a medical appointment, the first thing is to try on some low-strength, over-the-counter reading glasses. Hold up something to read and pick the lowest number you can comfortably read at the distance you like to work,” she said.

Blue light

Another potential concern is the “blue light” that digital devices emit, but Dr. Maturi said this affects our body clock, rather than our vision. But it’s something worth paying attention to – especially for kids who can get overstimulated easily.

“When we go outside we look at a blue sky, that’s blue light,” he said. “The issue with blue light is at night. It can delay your ability to sleep quickly,” he said.

He suggested that people turn their devices to night mode or use e-readers with screens that more closely resemble a physical book. The key was to look at how many nits a display had – a measurement of luminance or brightness, he added.

To protect kids’ eyes, parents should encourage them to spend as much time outside as possible – within restrictions that are in place where you live to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The past two decades have seen a massive increase in myopia or short-sightedness among children – and while scientists can’t agree on exactly what has caused this rise and whether there’s any link to screen use, they do know that spending time outdoors, especially in early childhood, can slow its progression.

“We should know more in a few years when research comes up with more answers, but for parents they have a dilemma because the school is now brought into the screen and kids social engagement are now brought into the screen and kids are playing their games on a screen,” said Bishop.

 

By Katie Hunt, CNN      Fri May 1, 2020
 
source: www.cnn.com
smartphone

 

Is all this screen time damaging my eyes?
(Yes. But here’s what to do)

Between Zoom meetings, ordering groceries online, Instagram videos, Face Time, checking the Canadian coronavirus map, endless chats with friends over Messenger, digital symptom trackers, and, of course, bingeing Tiger King, screen time is at an all-time high.

Digital media has emerged as a hero in the covid-19 pandemic, since it’s making remote work possible and social media platforms now provide a lifeline to those of us who feel isolated. But if you do both, as I do, that’s a lot of screen time, even before I start streaming The Plot Against America (must-watch, by the way). Since I’m already nearsighted, I wondered if this lockdown was going to do permanent damage.

I asked Dr. Ritesh Patel, Optometrist at Toronto’s See and Be Seen Eyecare , for a little advice, starting with some straight talk about how much screen time is too much. Apparently, anything over two or three hours is considered too much. Whoops.

“Whether that’s realistic or not is a different story,” says Patel. “So for people spending more time in front of screens, we try to recommend something called 20-20-20, which means that every 20 minutes you should give your eyes a 20-second break by looking 20 feet away, which allows you to refocus your eyes.”

And, thanks to the hand-washing regimen we’ve all recently learned, we should know how long 20 seconds really is—two Happy Birthday songs; the break from “Kiss Off” by the Violent Femmes, or the chorus to Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Your choice.

Taking a 20-second breather to look out the window may not seem like the most important part of our new regimen that sees us take measures to avoid the novel coronavirus, avoid transmitting it to others, quell the rising tides of anxiety and find some way to stay physically active in our small spaces, but protecting our vision is an important piece too. It’s more than just the worry that we’ll all be getting new prescriptions, since too much blue UV light, which is emitted from our screens, can cause other problems.

“The devices can cause strain on your eyes, fatigue and, potentially, headaches but they also impact other things such as sleeping patterns,” Patel explains. “So, if you’re using your phone before you go to sleep, your brain is tricked into thinking it’s daytime instead of night time so your sleeping patterns are, of course, impacted as well which has an effect on cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure. It’s a bigger picture and a systemic issue as well.”

Patel advises cutting off the screens two hours before bed. I asked him if that included Netflix and, sadly, it does. Although he did say that, if the TV was far away, it was at least less damaging than staring right into tablets and laptops close-up.

And that principle can also guide us to design vision-friendly home office set-ups. Casting your work to a TV a few feet away is an improvement over working on a desktop or laptop, which, aside from producing eye strain, can also interfere with our normal blinking patterns.

“We don’t realize this but, as soon as we get in front of a screen and get into our zone, we blink a lot less,” Patel says. “Instead of blinking every two to three seconds, you start blinking every four to five seconds and that’s a significant decrease.”

Reduced blinking can make our eyes feel dry, itchy, sensitive to light, red and even lead to more bacteria getting stuck in the eyes, which could lead to infections. He recommends “blinking exercises,” which involve closing your eyes for five seconds and then again for 10 seconds at regular intervals throughout the day.

“I kind of equate it to yoga, how you become conscious about your breathing and realize you take a lot of shallow breaths in your everyday life,” he says. “Breathing and blinking kind of go hand-in-hand, because you don’t think about it, they just happened literally 10,000 times per day, but it feels good to take a deep breath or close your eyes for a break and give your eyes the moisture levels they need.”

Patel recommends looking into technological solutions as well. Many phones and tablets have something in their settings called “Night Shift,” which reduces the brightness of the light and Patel advises leaving that on all the time—not just at night. There’s also software available to filter out the blue light, such as f.lux. And there are plenty of apps to nudge you to do the 20-20-20 thing and take frequent breaks, since some of us will inevitably forget to look away from the screen if we get really engrossed in our work. And “Screen Time,” itself, which tells you how much time you’ve spent on any given device is helpful, too.

Says Patel: “It definitely boils down to awareness, right? If you’re not even aware of the fact that this is an excessive amount of time spent on the computer, then it’s not even going to cross your mind. But if you have a timer that tells you it’s time to take a break now, you might do it.”

By Christine Sismondo    Special to the Star         Mon., April 13, 2020
Christine Sismondo is a Toronto-based writer and contributor to the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @sismondo


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10 Simple Things All Healthy Kids Have in Common

Changing a handful of little habits can help ensure you have super healthy kids. These are the pediatrician-approved qualities of the most robust kids around.

They get plenty of sleep

Many kids—especially as they hit their teen years—don’t get the recommended amount of sleep. “Prioritize sleep,” says Natasha Burgert, MD, a pediatrician in Kansas City, Missouri. “Sleep is required for healthy growth, body functions, and mental health. Plus, sleep protects against obesity and its associated risks.” For toddlers, expect 11 to 14 hours of sleep, while teens should get between 8 and 10 hours per night. Need help getting shut-eye? Try these 10 tips for a better night’s sleep.

They wash their hands before eating

A 2012 study showed that something as simple as teaching your kids to wash their hands regularly can drastically lower the rate of respiratory and gastrointestinal illness. Here are other key ways to avoid getting sick.

They don’t eat only mac n’ cheese

“Parents can teach their kids to eat foods that are all colors of the rainbow,” says Jean Moorjani, MD, a pediatrician at Orlando Health’s Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. “The variety will ensure that kids are getting the appropriate vitamins and nutrients they need to grow and be healthy.” These are the after-school snacks nutritionists give their own kids.

They stay up to date on vaccinations

Vaccines are key to preventing illness—and to healthy kids. “Parents can make sure they give vaccines on the CDC recommended schedule,” Dr. Moorjani says. “This includes a flu vaccine every year.”

They get out and play

Active kids are healthy kids. And beyond the physical benefits such as decreased risk of obesity and weight-related disease, regular exercise can help reduce stress and boost mood too. “Healthy kids do something fun every day, screens not included,” Dr. Burgert says. “Promoting mental health is important.”

They have parents who prioritize their own health

“When parents get busy, we have a tendency to prioritize the health and wellness of our kids over our own,” says Dr. Burgert. “Moms and dads need to prioritize their own health to set an example. This includes eight hours of sleep, limiting media use, eating at home with their kids, drinking lots of water, getting a flu shot, washing hands, getting regular exercise, and taking time out for ourselves.” By having healthy habits of your own, you’ll be modeling a healthy lifestyle for your kids. Here’s how to carve out more “me time.”

They use car seats and seat belts

Car accidents are one of the most common causes of death in kids under 12, and 35 percent of those killed were not properly restrained in car seats. Follow the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations, and have kids rear facing until they turn 2, in a five-point harness until they outgrow their forward-facing seat, and then a belt-positioning booster until they reach 4 feet 9 inches. Learn how to use a car seat safely.

They wear helmets when they ride bikes

Only about half of children wear helmets when they ride their bikes, even though nearly 26,000 kids each year end up with bike-related head injuries, according to the CDC. And though they aren’t perfect, a study in the American College of Surgery shows that people who wore helmets reduced their risk of traumatic brain injury by 53 percent. These are the signs you need to go to the ER after a head injury.

They limit their screen time

A recent survey by Common Sense Media finds that kids are glued to their screens for an average of 2 hours and 20 minutes every day. But super healthy kids step away from technology. “Kids who spend too much time in front of a screen—computer, video games, tablets, smartphones—have higher risks of developing obesity, depression, sleep problems, lower academic performance, and increased risky behavior,” says Dr. Moorjani.

They see their doctor annually

Regular doctor’s visits can help ensure that everything’s ship shape—and make sure that you catch any underlying medical issues sooner. “Parents can contact their trusted pediatrician for guidance in helping their kids grow up as healthy as they can be,” says Dr. Moorjani. “As healthcare providers, we want what you want, and that is for every child to grow up healthy.” Here’s how to find a pediatrician you can trust.

BY LISA MILBRAND
source: www.rd.com


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Why Your Phone And The ‘fear Of Missing Out’ May Negatively Impact Your Mental Health

Electronic devices, such as smartphones and computers, are a necessity of day-to-day life; but that reliance on devices may be taking a toll on Canadians’ mental health.

A new survey by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) suggests, on average, Ontario adults spend more than 11 hours per week using social media or communicating via email, and nearly four hours per week playing screen-based games. That’s 15 hours a week not including the amount of time spent on devices at work or in school.

CAMH’s study suggested nearly one in five respondents between the ages of 18 to 29 showed signs of reliance on electronic devices, based on questions like, “Have you missed school, work or important social activities because of your use of devices?”

Overall, seven per cent of those surveyed had a problematic relationship with devices, according to the survey. Of those, 24 per cent said they had tried to cut back on their use and 14 per cent reported family members expressing concern about the amount of time they spent on their device.

Ten per cent reported feeling an “irresistible urge or uncontrollable need” to use their devices and seven per cent had experienced anxiety that could only be relieved by using a device.

“It’s clear that, for most of us, our use of electronic devices has skyrocketed over the past five to 10 years,” said Dr. Nigel Turner, scientist at CAMH’s Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, in a press release.

“While our understanding of problematic use is evolving, we know that some people do end up harming their career or educational opportunities by excessive use.”

How to cut down on your device use and improve your mental health

When Canadians talk about limiting screen time, the conversation usually revolves around children – but experts say it’s equally important for adults to consider putting tech restrictions on themselves for the sake of their mental health.

“Technology prompts us to respond – those beeps and buzzes gets our dopamine flowing,” Lisa Pont, therapist and educator with CAMH. “The fear of missing out is huge.”

family tech phones computer

As Pont points out, all of those text messages, Facebook Likes and Instagram notifications lighting up our devices provide us with a hit of dopamine – which helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centre. This often leads to people constantly being tuned in to their devices.

“There is this expectation of people in our lives to be immediately responsive because everyone knows you have your smartphone on you,” Pont said.

Pont says it’s important for adults to reflect on their tech use to see how it’s affecting their day-to-day lives and attitude – do you feel the pressure to respond right away; do you feel anxiety due to information overload, or do you feel FOMO (fear of missing out) when you aren’t using your device; have you argued with your partner because they feel you are disconnected?

“You have to look at the consequences. If it’s affecting your work, or its impacting relationships, those are negative consequences,” she said. “This idea that I have to know what’s going on, it sounds so benign, but I think it truly affects our stress level.”

If you feel your device is impacting your mental health, try imposing limits on yourself – for example, no devices after 8 p.m., turn phones off during family dinners, or no phones in the bedroom.

“Consciously not using it at times when you want to be present,” Pont said. “We have anxiety detaching from technology, but you might discover you like it.”

Another important habit to break: using your phone as your alarm. Although sleeping next to your device may not seem like a big deal, Pont said those beeps and vibrations have the same effect our sleeping brain, causing you to lose sleep – and a lack of sleep can contribute to stress.

The light emitted from a smartphone or tablet, for example, can suppress the production of melatonin – a hormone that regulates a person’s circadian rhythm – and multiple studies have shown that using blue light-emitting, like smartphones and computers, before bed can lead to poor sleep.

Of course, cutting down on your screen time might be hard to do if you have a job that requires you to be available after-hours.

That’s why France banned work emails outside business hours earlier this year, Germany’s labour ministry banned managers from calling or emailing staff outside of work hours in 2013, and Volkswagen made it so that its servers would shut down the ability to send emails 30 minutes after an employee’s shift ended in 2011.

No such bans have been implemented in Canada, however.

These latest survey findings are based on the 2015 CAMH Monitor, a collection of survey data which allows researchers to track long-term trends in the use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco, as well as identifying problematic behaviours related to mental health within Ontario’s population.

Another alarming issue in the survey: 37 per cent of respondents reported they had texted while driving at least once during the past year, while 11 per cent admitted texting behind the wheel 30 or more times over the previous year.

If you have the urge to text and drive, Pont suggests turning your phone on “Airplane Mode.” If you have a hands-free solution in your car and want to keep your phone on for emergency situations, then try leaving it in the backseat or somewhere out of reach.

By Nicole Bogart       National Online Journalist, Breaking News Global News
source: globalnews.ca


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Exposure to Bright Light Might Impact Metabolism

By: Elise Moreau     June 4, 2016     Follow Elise at @elisem0reau

Most people are aware of the importance of vitamin D for good health and that it comes from the sun in its natural form. And many know that the light from our electronic devices can mess with their ability to sleep at night. But did you know that your exposure to bright light — perhaps natural or artificial — may even be powerful enough to alter your metabolism?

In a recent study conducted by Northwestern University, 19 adults were exposed to bright, blue-enriched light for three hours each in the morning and in the evening over a four-day period. Hunger, metabolic function and physiological arousal were tracked and the results were compared against the results for exposure to dim light.

All participants were exposed to dim light in their waking hours over the first two days. On the third day, half of the participants were exposed to bright light in the morning while the other half were exposed to bright light in the evening.

What the researchers found was that bright light in both the morning and evening hours increased insulin resistance — the body’s inability to move glucose out of the bloodstream to use for energy. Insulin resistance can cause weight gain and increase the risk of diabetes.

The researchers also found that when the participants were exposed to bright light in the evening, higher peak glucose (blood sugar) levels were detected. And in a related study conducted previously by Northwestern researchers, they had found that people who were exposed to the majority of their light before midday weighed less than people who were exposed to the majority of their light after midday.

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This is the first time these results have been seen in humans, although researchers at this point can’t say why light exposure has the impact it does on our bodies. Previous studies conducted on mice that were exposed to light over a consistent period of time showed higher glucose levels and weight gain compared to mice in a control group.

These findings suggest that the amount of light, and what time of day we’re exposed to it, has a direct impact on our health. This would certainly include all the light we surround ourselves with these days that come from our electronic devices — from smartphones and tablets to television monitors and laptops. If you spend all evening around glowing screens, which we already know is bad for your body’s internal sleep clock, it could very well be partially to blame for why you may be having trouble shedding those few extra pounds.

The good news about this and future related research is that we may be able to find out more about how we might be able to use light to manipulate metabolic function. But for now, it’s probably safe to say that altering your morning and evening routines so that exposing yourself to light earlier in the day will be far better for your overall health than exposing yourself to much of it later on in the day.

Findings like these serve as just another good and healthy excuse to ditch the devices in the evening hours and do something a little more productive, enjoyable or just plain relaxing. Your mind and body deserve it.