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Increased Screen Time Sends More People To The Eye Doctor

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Corona, and our ongoing battle against it, is no longer just about the virus itself. At this point the ripple effects of Covid can be seen in every sector of our lives. 

From family, to work, to school, and on and on.

And, just those areas alone have each led us to one place…our computer screens (tablets or phones).

Want to see family from afar? Zoom or facetime…meaning screen time.

Working from home? From meetings to assignments…screen time.

Schools and colleges not holding in person classes? Pull out the tablets and computers for more…screen time. 

Can’t meet with family or friends or even go to the park anymore? Sure kids, go ahead and watch Frozen again for the 1,569th time since there’s nothing else to do. Or, maybe that’s extra Netflix binging for the adults, but either way…screen time. 

There doesn’t seem to be a way to escape screen time right now. But, what is this added screen time doing to your health, specifically the health of your eyes? 

More and more people are headed to their eye doctor due to all of the added time spent in front of a screen lately. 

So, let’s take a look at why, and some ways you can combat the negative effects of increased screen time. 

How Increased Screen Exposure Affects Your Eyes

The extra time we’ve been spending in front of screens lately has been taking a toll on our eyes. 

So, what is it about those screens that harms our eyes, and what signs should you be looking for that point to the fact that you may need to adjust your screen routine a bit? 

First, think of what you’ve learned in regards to light and how it can affect your eyes. 

Anyone remember being told as a child *not* to look directly into the sun. 

While screen light isn’t exactly as bright as the sun, its effects can certainly be negative. 

Screens typically produce light in short waves known as high energy blue light, which is the light from your screen that is mostly associated with eye strain and its subsequent effects (which we’ll look at momentarily). 

Combine the length of time you expose your eyes to a screen, the blue light itself, and your close proximity to the screen, and you’ve got a recipe for eye strain disaster. 

In fact, one doctor (Yos Priestley of the Duke Eye Center), explains it directly, “our eyes are not built for long periods of visually focused work.” 

When you spend long periods of time in front of a screen, your eyes have to work harder than they are “built for” to focus on screen movement. 

When staring at blue light from your screen, you also blink approximately 33% less than when not in front of a screen. In other words, staring at that screen is drying out your eyes.

So, what do those negative effects of too much screen time look like when it comes to your vision? 

Dry Eyes

Especially if you wear contact lenses, too much time spent in front of a screen can dry out your eyes. 

As we just noted, you blink less frequently (33% less) when in front of a screen.

The thing is, your eyes rely on blinking to rewet or replenish tears.  Those needed tears protect your eyes from infection. And, a lack of tears can lead to inflammation and even damage on the surface of your eye.

If your eyes are feeling dry, irritated, or even gritty or scratchy, this can all stem from too much screen time. 

Eye Strain

We recognize that overuse of other parts of our bodies can cause strain. 

For instance, we use our legs to walk each and every day, but when we spend extra amounts of time on our feet, we often lament such overuse the next day. 

Our eyes are no different. And, as we saw earlier, they aren’t even “built” for extended periods of time spent focusing. 

So, as we spend extended periods of time in front of a screen, frankly, our eyes get tired. 

You may experience blurred vision, double vision, dizziness, headaches, or difficulty concentrating all stemming from too much strain being placed on your eyes due to increased screen time. 

Retinal Damage

When speaking of damaging your retina, it sounds like we’re going to extremes here, but the fact of the matter is, the blue light emitted from digital screens can affect your retina, which lines the inside of the back of your eye. 

The cells inside of your retina are sensitive to blue light and research shows that this type of light can indeed damage those cells. 

The American Optometric Association states that this damage is most likely to occur in children as opposed to adults. 

Lessening The Negative Effects Of Increased Screen Time 

So, moving on from the gloom and doom of the damage too much screen time can cause to your vision, there are some things that you can do to minimize these negative effects. 

20/20/20

Seeing those numbers together closely resemble this year numerically, and that can almost be scary at this point, but these 20’s are here to help. 

Often referred to as the 20/20/20 rule, this simply refers to a practice that can help you avoid eye strain when using a screen for a prolonged period of time. 

For every 20 minutes that you spend in front of a screen, pause and look at something at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds. 

Especially for children, setting a timer to remind them to do this can be effective. 

This rule can also help you to remember to take needed breaks, taking time to stretch and walk away from your screen for a brief moment. 

Back Up

Especially when using a tablet or phone, you can end up in a position where your eyes are far too close to the screen.  

As a general rule of thumb, you should put at least a forearm’s length between you and your screen. 

And, make sure that your screen is at or a little below eye level.  

Blink

No, we’re not talking about late 90’s alternative rock here. 

When in front of your computer screen or tablet, you actually need to remember to blink. 

As we mentioned earlier, you blink considerably less when in front of a screen, and that action, blinking, is vital to the health of your eye. 

Be conscious of it as an adult, and be sure to remind your children, who are spending increased amounts of time in front of a screen, to blink. 

One doctor recommended pattern is to blink three times, pausing briefly on the last blink. For instance, “blink, blink, squeeze (or pause)” can replenish tears and prevent dry eyes. 

Patterns like this can be especially beneficial for children to help them remember to blink more while in front of a screen. 

Lighting

From the screen itself to overall room lighting, these settings matter when it comes to the health of your eyes. 

1- Seek to fill your work space with natural lighting. 

2- Lower the blue light level of the screen, if possible.

3- Try to match the level of light emitting from your screen with the light in the room. In other words, the light of your screen shouldn’t be the brightest light in the room. Especially avoid using screens in a dark room. Be sure to turn on another light in the room or adjust your screen’s lighting.

4- Adjust the angle of your screen if necessary to lessen glare, which can lead to eye strain. 

Glasses

There are actually a few types of glasses that can help with the negative effects of increased screen time. 

Anti-glare glasses or anti-reflective coating on glasses can lessen the amount of glare from the computer or tablet screen, keeping eye strain at a minimum. 

Blue light glasses can also reduce the negative effects (mentioned above) of excess screen time by blocking the blue light emitted from digital screens. 

Drops

Prescription or even over-the-counter drops known as artificial tears prove to be beneficial for some who experience the eye-drying effects of too much screen time. 

Such drops can mimic natural tears, preventing your eyes from overdrying and the subsequent damage this can cause. 

So, while you may find yourself in a position that demands increased screen time, you can minimize the negative effects of this by incorporating the above practices. 

It is important to note, however, if you (or your child) are experiencing continued problems with your vision, resulting from too much screen time or not, a visit to your eye doctor may be necessary. 

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HEALTH

Low Carb Diet May Induce Remission Of Type 2 Diabetes

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Low-carb diets have been popular for some time now due to their proven substantial benefit to weight and/or fat loss. 

But, recent findings have shown that the benefits may be even greater than once believed…even inducing remission in people with type 2 diabetes. 

That’s right, aside from weight loss, improved cholesterol levels, potential boosts in brain health, and benefits to the health of your heart, low carb diets are now proving effective for diabetes patients as well. 

So, what is it about restricting carbs that brings such great benefits to those with type 2 diabetes? And, can these results be sustained long term? 

As low carb diets are often said to be difficult to maintain over long lengths of time, what can you do to ensure you don’t get burnt out?

Let’s take a look…

The Effects Of Carb Restriction On Type 2 Diabetes

The findings of a recent study have the diabetic world buzzing, and rightfully so!

Earlier this year, researchers at Texas A&M studied results from randomized trials assessing the effectiveness of low carb diets amongst those individuals with type 2 diabetes.

These studies found that participants who followed a low carb diet raised the likelihood of their diabetes going into remission by 32%.

Concerning 1,357 participants (spanning several studies), most of whom were between the ages of 47-67 and overweight or obese, those who saw such results followed a strict low carb eating regimen for 12 weeks. 

Researchers checked in on participants at both 6 and 12 months, and the greatest benefits were seen at 6 months. 

At 12 months, while some participants were still in remission, those rates were lower than the 6 month mark. 

The hypothesis is that those individuals who remained diligent in their adherence to a low carb diet saw continued benefit, while those who were less consistent lost the benefits related to their type 2 diabetes over time. 

So then, how exactly does restricting carbs benefit patients with type 2 diabetes?

Essentially, you can think of carbs to type 2 diabetes in a similar way that we think of milk to those with lactose intolerance. 

With lactose intolerance, a person’s body can not accurately process lactose. 

In the case of type 2 diabetes, a person’s body can not accurately process carbohydrates. 

So, someone who can not process carbohydrates accurately or efficiently, when consuming foods rich in carbs will experience high levels of blood sugar (consistently) and even weight gain. 

Normally, when we consume carbohydrates they get broken down into sugar. This sugar then enters our bloodstream causing blood sugar levels to rise. 

This spike then tells your pancreas to produce insulin to help your cells to absorb that blood sugar for energy (both for storage and immediate usage). 

In cases of type 2 diabetes, over time the body stops responding to that insulin which causes blood sugar levels to remain too high for too long. And, eventually that insulin production can stop altogether. 

So, for type 2 diabetes patients, eating a low carb diet decreases the strain on the body and lessens the body’s propensity to produce too much insulin. 

As eating fewer carbs helps the body to maintain healthy blood sugar (or blood glucose) levels, carb intolerance and insulin resistance improves as well.

Obviously then, maintaining a low carb lifestyle would be a crucial component in continuing to reap those rewards in one’s fight against diabetes, but many would argue this to be a difficult task. 

So, how can you successfully restrict carbs long term? 

Tips For Success While Cutting Down On Carbs

One of the biggest hurdles to successfully reaping the rewards of a low carb diet long term is the (often deemed) lack of sustainability of such diets. 

Even registered dieticians and nutrition experts agree that cutting carbs long term can be difficult…but certainly not impossible! 

So, what tips do the experts give regarding low carb success? 

1- Slow And Steady Wins The Race

Low carb diets can be highly restrictive. And, one mistake that many make is to dive headfirst into the deep end…no looking back. 

While such ambition is admirable, dietary restrictions of any kind that are fast and furious often fizzle out before they finish. 

Therefore, the experts recommend an approach with a slow beginning. 

Dr. Minisha Sood, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City advises her patients to “start with one meal at a time.” 

Dr. Sood recommends beginning with dinner as the meal to tackle first: “Aim to lower carb intake (at this meal) by about 50% by swapping out unhealthy, starch-packed carbohydrates for healthier sources such as healthy grains or lentils.”

From there, you can then begin to make similar healthy swaps at lunch, then breakfast, and snacks. 

2- Stay On Track Through Tracking

Keeping a food diary or journal to keep track of not only what you eat, but how those foods affect your body is a proven method to help you stay on track. 

I know that many people don’t like the idea of tracking food long term, but consider doing so as you begin your low carb eating regimen to see how your body reacts to various foods, track your gains in energy, and keep you motivated. 

In time, you may find that you don’t need to track as often. And, you can always drop or pick up this healthy habit as needed. But, in the beginning, keeping track is a great way to foster success. 

3- Talk To Your Doc

Keeping your physician in the loop when dealing with type 2 diabetes is very important. 

Your doctor or specialist knows your situation and can recommend a plan best suited to your needs. 

As different carbs affect different people in different ways, your doctor or a nutritionist can guide you to the best choices for your specific needs. 

4- The Buddy System

As with any diet or healthy eating plan, there’s often help in numbers. 

In fact, studies have shown people are more successful at adhering to dietary changes (and losing weight) when they have the support of a friend or buddy. 

Sticking to any diet long term is difficult, but having a support system along the way can increase your chances of long term success. 

5- Variety Is The Spice Of Low Carb Life

While there are plenty of delicious low carb food options available for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks, not experiencing a variety of those options can hinder your ability to stay low carb long term, thereby missing the benefits to be had (especially regarding type 2 diabetes). 

Many cultures have eaten low carb diets for centuries, so…we can do it…we’ve just got to stay out of boring ruts when it comes to our food choices. 

Conclusion

Studies have proven that low carb diets can cause type 2 diabetes to go into remission. 

The only problem is, these results aren’t sustained long-term (post 12 months) if patients do not remain on a low-carb diet. In other words, at this point, research suggests that low-carb eating needs to become a lifestyle to reap long-term healthy rewards. 

So, if you have type 2 diabetes, consider talking to your doctor (first and foremost) about how a low-carb diet may benefit your condition. 

Then, once you get the green light and some direction from your physician or specialist, don’t forget to ease into this style of eating, keep track of your food intake and progress, incorporate a variety of foods, and enlist the support of a friend for long-term success. 

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HEALTH

Muscle Strengthening Found To Lower Risk Of Death From All Causes

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Do you incorporate practices into your daily or weekly routine for the benefit those things bring to your health and well-being? 

Take coffee, for instance. Many folks enjoy their daily cup of joe knowing it can improve cognitive functioning and decrease the risk of certain diseases, even lowering the risk of mortality from all causes. 

Or, what about your sleep habits? Do you aim to get a specific number of hours of restful sleep each night for the purpose of improving cardiovascular health, even adding length to your life? 

Those are only a few examples of both foods and practices that, when incorporated into our lives, can improve our health and may even allow us to live longer. 

And, according to the experts, upon analyzing research spanning more than three decades, muscle strengthening can be added to the list of things we can easily incorporate into our lives to add length to our days!

Spoiler alert: adding just 30 minutes of muscle-strengthening activity per week can help you reap this reward!

So, let’s take a look at the benefits of muscle training (strengthening), and then we’ll look at the science and discover some simple, practical ways you can boost your health and lower your overall risk of death.

Benefits Of Muscle Training

Muscle training, or strengthening, exercises offer a wide variety of benefits to your health, so before we dive into the research, let’s quickly explore just a few of those benefits…

1- Improves Bone Density

Studies show strength training to be capable of significantly increasing bone mineral density. 

This is explained by a few things that occur as you increase the strength of your muscles:

  • Weight-bearing exercises done while standing cause gravity to pull downward on the body, slightly stressing bones and muscles, thereby causing them to strengthen. 
  • Each time a muscle contracts throughout exercise, it pulls on the bone where it is attached. This pulling essentially mimics a trauma, causing the cells in the bone to stimulate the production of structural proteins which work to build up and strengthen the bone. 

2- Improves Mental Health

Strength training has been shown to improve symptoms of both depression and anxiety. 

Some believe, as in the case of high-intensity aerobic exercise, that these improvements are linked to a release of endorphins or increased endocannabinoid levels. 

And, according to research findings from the Harvard School of Medicine, “strength training provides an opportunity to overcome obstacles in a controlled predictable environment, increasing mental resilience.” 

3- Raises Basal Metabolic Rate

When you do strength or resistance training, your body requires specific amounts of energy based on how hard you are working. 

Then, your body continues to burn calories at that rate as it returns to a state of rest even after you’ve finished exercising, known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. 

In the case of strength training, after you’ve put in a particularly intense amount of work, this amount is essentially amplified as you then continue to burn calories at this high metabolic rate through recovery. 

Then, as you build lean muscle mass through your efforts, the physical activity that you engage in will require your muscles to burn even more calories as each kilogram of lean muscle mass increases your metabolic rate by upwards to 100 calories per day. 

Mathematically stated: 

  • great efforts put into strength training equal great caloric burn post-workout session
  • lean muscle mass building through strength training equals greater calorie burn in your workouts 

4- Helps Maintain A Healthy Weight

Now this may seem obvious after the last point, but those gains in muscle and potential extra calorie burn kick in to aid you as you seek to maintain a healthy body weight.

Not only can you shed pounds with those calorie burn gains, but studies have shown resistance training (one type of muscle strengthening exercise) works to help dieters keep those pounds off, with a weekly commitment to muscle training activity preventing weight gain as well as keeping visceral belly fat at bay. 

5- Controls Blood Sugar

Studies have shown that as you build muscle this also improves the uptake and use of glucose within the muscle. 

Transporters within the cells of the muscle travel to the bloodstream to get glucose and then bring it back to the muscle. When you strengthen the muscle, this makes that process more efficient, bringing more glucose into the muscle thereby lowering blood sugar levels. 

For this reason, people with type 2 diabetes are encouraged to incorporate muscle-strengthening exercises into their weekly routine. 

Research, Muscle Strengthening, And A Lowered Risk Of Death

As we just saw above, and as we’ve known for some time, the benefits of exercise are great, but did you know (aside from the title and intro of this article) that this benefit list includes the ability to reduce the risk of death from all causes? 

However, those benefits can seem vague. After all, how much exercise brings these benefits? 

What type of exercise benefits you the most? And, how much benefit are we talking about here? 

Well, a group of scientists at Tohoku University in Japan have recently analyzed multiple international studies, spanning over three decades, to bring us those answers. 

The studies reviewed included research conducted over the course of 2-25 years on adults who were healthy (lacking any major health concerns), with a centralized focus on 16 particular studies from the United States, England, Scotland, Australia, and Japan. 

These studies involved a large number of participants, both men and women, from samples with as few as 4,000 to as many as nearly 480,000 people, including ages ranging from 18-97.

Participants in each study did a variety of physical activities, including aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises. 

And, as the team analyzed the data, one thing stood out: you don’t have to exercise for hours and hours each week to improve your health and reduce your risk of death!

Incorporating just 30-60 minutes per week of muscle strengthening exercises proved to lower the risk of death from all causes, including heart disease and cancer, by 10-20%. 

Even better, when strength training activities were combined each week with aerobic exercise, the risk of death decreased by 40%, the threat of cardiovascular disease dropped by 46%, and the risk of death by cancer reduced by 28%. 

Another bonus? The types of muscle-strengthening exercises that will allow you to reap these rewards aren’t only those typically done in a gym setting. 

Muscle strengthening activities are beneficial due to their (positive) impact on your musculoskeletal health. 

And, while those types of activities certainly include lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, squats, and lunges, they also include practical work such as heavy gardening and shoveling.

Furthermore, according to the physical health guidelines in the UK, even yoga, pilates, and tai chi, as well as wheeling a wheelchair, lifting and carrying children, and carrying heavy shopping bags are considered to be worthy muscle strengthening exercises as they work to benefit the musculoskeletal system. 

While there were limitations to the analysis done here, such as limited data, a lack of diversity in the population of participants, and data collected through observation as opposed to clinical trials, there is still much to be gleaned from the information reviewed. 

But, this new analysis of data can serve to add to what we’ve already known concerning a reduced risk of death with muscle strengthening exercise, now giving us precise “doses” or prescriptions for how much time we should spend engaging in such activities to reap optimal rewards. 

And, as we mentioned above, that prescription reads 30-60 minutes spent weekly doing muscle strengthening exercises to lower the risk of all causes of death (by 10-20%), with added benefits to being reaped when including aerobic exercise alongside your muscle strengthening routine. 

References: 

https://lifeboostcoffee.com/blogs/lifeboost/how-many-cups-of-coffee-should-you-be-drinking-each-day

https://www.verywellhealth.com/sleep-duration-and-longevity-2224291

https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/less-than-an-hour-of-strength-training-a-week-can-lower-your-risk-of-death

https://www.sciencealert.com/study-links-muscle-strengthening-activities-to-a-lower-risk-of-dying

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-02-mins-weekly-muscle-linked.html

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/feb/28/muscle-strengthening-lowers-risk-of-death-from-all-causes-study-shows

https://www.everydayhealth.com/fitness/add-strength-training-to-your-workout.aspx

https://egym.com/us/blog/boost-metabolism#:~:text=Muscles%20are%20lean%20body%20mass,four%20days%20(afterburn%20effect).

https://health.usnews.com/wellness/fitness/articles/benefits-of-strength-training-that-have-nothing-to-do-with-muscle-size

https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/five-benefits-of-strength-training.html#

https://www.eatingwell.com/article/290619/trying-to-lose-weight-heres-why-strength-training-is-as-important-as-cardio

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HEALTH

Healthy and Delicious: Creative Ways to Add Flavor to Your Meals with Nutrient-Rich Options

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When it comes to healthy eating, many people often think of bland and tasteless meals. However, eating nutritious food does not have to be boring or flavorless. In fact, there are plenty of ways to add flavor to your meals while still keeping them healthy and nutrient-rich.

There are a number of nutrient-rich options that can help enhance the flavor of your meals without adding excess calories or unhealthy ingredients. Here are some creative ways to add flavor to your meals with these healthy options:

1. Fresh Herbs and Spices: Fresh herbs and spices are a great way to add flavor to your meals without adding extra calories or unhealthy fats. Basil, cilantro, parsley, and mint are all great options for adding freshness and flavor to your dishes. Spices like turmeric, cumin, paprika, and cinnamon can also add depth and complexity to your meals.

2. Citrus Fruits: Citrus fruits like lemon, lime, and orange can add a burst of flavor to your dishes. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over grilled chicken or fish, or add some lime zest to your guacamole for a bright and tangy kick.

3. Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds are not only packed with nutrients like protein, fiber, and healthy fats, but they also add a delicious crunch to your meals. Sprinkle some chopped almonds or walnuts over a salad, or toss some pumpkin seeds into your oatmeal for added texture and flavor.

4. Fermented Foods: Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir are not only good for your gut health, but they can also add a unique and tangy flavor to your meals. Add kimchi to your stir-fry or top your avocado toast with sauerkraut for a tasty and probiotic-rich boost.

5. Nutritional Yeast: Nutritional yeast is a great way to add a cheesy and savory flavor to your meals without the added calories and saturated fats of real cheese. Sprinkle some nutritional yeast over your popcorn, pasta, or roasted vegetables for a delicious and dairy-free alternative.

By incorporating these nutrient-rich options into your meals, you can add flavor and excitement to your dishes while still maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. Experiment with different herbs, spices, fruits, nuts, and seeds to discover new and innovative ways to enhance the taste of your meals. With a little creativity and some healthy ingredients, you can create delicious and nutritious meals that will satisfy your taste buds and nourish your body.

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