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Exploring Life Attachments Part 3: How Technology Affects Your Health

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Like many people, your smartphone, tablet computer, laptop, MP3 player and other handy high-tech gadgets may be lifelines. While they connect you to the outside world, dependence on technological devices at home and work also poses threats to your body and mind. Excessive texting, social networking, emailing and earbud usage can strain your back, muscles, joints, eyes, ears and brain. Learn how to minimize health risks through moderation and helpful tips. Also, reserve time for other life attachments including friends, work, hobbies and pets while managing diet, exercise and medication schedules. These devices have some benefits, though; you can use a tech tool to order prescriptions from an online pharmacy quickly and easily anytime, among other things.

Technology Interaction Benefits

Adults are embracing technological devices, the Internet and social media for medical assistance and social engagement. Today, 58 percent of adults have smart phones and 42 percent use tablet computers. Smartphone apps can help you manage and monitor diabetes, asthma, diet, exercise, medications, mental health, pain and much more. A study showed older adult social media users reported enhanced feelings of control and self-efficacy. They accessed health-related information and engaged in patient-to-patient or patient-doctor conversations. Besides overcoming loneliness through online contact with family and friends, they exchanged experiences and support on online forums for people in challenging medical situations. A Wichita State University study found that 42 percent of senior citizens lived in social isolation or were at risk of developing this condition. While 85 percent of participants wanted to use computers, the 25 percent of regular users were less lonely and socially isolated.

Health Hazards

Body pains and complications. Computer and handheld device usage can cause neck and back pain, fatigue and headache. The modern trend of technological interaction reducing physical activity can affect your lifespan. Sitting in front of a computer for long periods increases your likelihood of dying earlier. To avoid neck and back strain, use your laptop on a desk more than your lap. Adjust the top of your monitor at eye level, so you’re looking down at the screen by 10 to 20 degrees. Research suggests men who push their knees together to support laptops may lower their fertility. In just 28 minutes, this habit raises scrotum temperature enough to destroy sperm. When using handheld devices, rest your arms on a solid surface to relieve your neck and shoulders. Instead of sitting while talking on your phone, get up and move. Take technology-free breaks to stand, walk and stretch. Sore wrists and thumbs. Continuous texting with your thumbs can cause a repetitive stress injury. Your thumbs are your least dexterous digits. Women are more at risk of developing thumb aches and carpal tunnel syndrome from overusing smartphones and computers due to periodic fluid retention from menstruation, contraceptive pills and pregnancy. Because women have only about two-thirds as much muscle mass as men, pressing keys takes more effort. You can avoid pain by using both hands. Researchers report maximum safe thumb usage is about two hours a day, so shorten your replies. When your thumbs ache, stop texting and try icepacks first. If your pain is severe or doesn’t subside, see a doctor, who may recommend splints or cortisone shots. Vision problems. The reports about 70 percent of computer users have eyestrain including redness, tech1irritation, blurry vision, difficulty focusing and mild headaches. Causes include inadequate screen distance, lighting, blink rate and breaks. Fortunately, damage usually isn’t permanent. But older adults who have lost their close-up vision may strain even more to read text on smaller smartphone and MP3 player screens. Protect your sight by creating an eye-friendly computer setup. Place your screen an arm’s length away and just below eye level. The characters on your screen should be large enough to look sharp. Take a 20-second computer break every 20 minutes. Artificial tears and warm compresses may help. Older adults might need to use reading glasses or magnifiers with smaller screens. If your condition persists, see your eye doctor. Hearing loss. An estimated 55 million adults over age 20 have lost some high-frequency hearing. About 16 percent of adults have trouble hearing others talk. While some hearing loss is inevitable with age, constant exposure to loud MP3 player music may increase your risk. Hearing damage depends on your sensitivity, genetics, listening time and volume. To protect your hearing, make sure your earbuds fit snugly. Set the volume at 50-60 percent of the maximum for safe all-day listening. Increase the volume up to 80 percent for 90 minutes per day. Restrict cranking the volume up to 90 percent to just 20 minutes daily. Brain strain. Most people absorb three times more information every day than 50 years ago, according to University of California researchers. This nonstop influx of often nonessential details while multitasking can hinder your focus and memory. Younger adults can retrieve temporarily lost memory better than older ones. Like obsessive-compulsive disorder, people are afraid the world will end if they miss a text message, social media post, email or call. Some scientists believe this constant stimulation provokes excitement. When you don’t get that burst of dopamine, the feel-good chemical your brain produces, you crave it more. Safeguard your brain by focusing on one thing at a time and establishing limits. While dining with a friend, resist the urge to text someone else. Try a short technology-free period. When the world doesn’t end, give your body and mind a longer break next time to rejuvenate.

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