Smartphones can cause depression and other health hazards

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The blue light emitted from screens can affect a person’s sleep cycle

New Delhi, 05 December 2017: Prolonged use of smartphones may significantly increase the risk of depression, anxiety and insomnia among teenagers, as per recent findings. The findings indicate that there may be an imbalance in the brain chemistry of young people addicted to devices and the internet.[1] The motivation for going online is an important factor in relating technology usage to depression and anxiety.

While people are concerned about cancer, which remains a controversial issue, there are other future health problems caused by use of smart phones. Prolonged use of mobile phone can also cause neck pain, dry eyes, computer vision syndrome, and insomnia. About 60% of youth between 20 and 30 years of age fear losing their mobile phone, a condition called nomophobia.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, National President Indian Medical Association (IMA) and President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Dr RN Tandon – Honorary Secretary General IMA in a joint statement, said, “Prolonged use of smartphones can cause multiple health issues, not just depression and anxiety. Smartphones and tablets give off a blue light, which can affect a person’s sleep-wake cycle. This blue light reduces the amount of melatonin secreted in our brains, which is a hormone required for good sleep. People who use smartphones in bed have a delayed REM sleep and wake up less alert in the morning. Cell phone elbow happens when one talks on the phone a lot. Holding the phone up to the ear causes the ulnar nerve to get compressed over time, which can lead to problems with motility and sensation. These are just some of the issues. Behaviors can be as addictive as substances, and many of us have the tendency to pull out and check our phones much more often than is necessary.”

Having access to so many different streams of information through gadgets has been found to decrease the brain’s grey matter density, which is responsible for cognition and emotional control.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, said, “In this digital era, the key to good health should be moderation – moderate use of technology. A lot of us have become slaves to devices that were really meant to free us and give us more time to experience life and be with people. Unless precautionary measures are taken at the earliest, this addiction can prove detrimental to one’s health in the longer term.”

Some tips for preventing problems caused due to overuse of mobile phones are as follows.

  • Electronic curfew means not using any electronic gadgets 30 minutes before sleep.
  • Facebook holiday: Take a Facebook holiday for 7 days every three months.
  • Social media fast: Avoid use of social media once in a week for the entire day.
  • Use your mobile phone only when mobile.
  • Do not use computer for more than three hours in a day.
  • Limit your mobile talk time to more than two hours in a day.
  • Do not recharge your mobile battery more than once in a day.
  • Mobile can also be a source of infection in the hospital setup; therefore, it is disinfected every day.

A healthy lifestyle can reduce risk of dementia

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Lifestyle has a major role to play in the health and well-being of a person. It’s not just physical health that benefits from a healthy lifestyle, but also mental health.

Dementia is usually regarded as a part of the normal aging process. But it is not always so. Dementia is also associated with lifestyle factors. And, the risk of dementia can be reduced by simple but effective lifestyle modifications. This is the key message from a new report of The Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention, and Care, presented at the recently concluded Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2017 on July 20, 2017 and also published in The Lancet.

The report has identified nine lifestyle factors (as below) during the course of life – early, middle and later – that influence the risk of dementia. Many of these factors can co-occur.

The Report has for the first time considered social isolation and hearing as being pertinent to dementia. The level of education was also found to be an important risk factor. Poor education has been correlated with poor cognition.

1. Early life level of education
2. Midlife hypertension
3. Midlife obesity
4. Midlife hearing loss
5. Later life smoking
6. Later life physical inactivity
7. Later life social isolation
8. Later life depression
9. Later life diabetes

Prevention is always better than cure. These factors are potentially modifiable and addressing them timely can prevent dementia in a large number of people.

In addition to well-controlled hypertension and diabetes, early treatment of depression, weight loss, smoking cessation, being socially active, increasing physical activity, it is also important to engage in mentally stimulating and challenging exercises to keep the brain active. Develop a hobby, solve crossword puzzles, play chess or such challenging games to stay mentally active.

A healthy lifestyle adopted early in life builds up cognitive reserve for later life. It is important that we also advise our patients to start making positive lifestyle changes for a healthy old age.

(Source: Medscape)

Dr KK Aggarwal
National President IMA & HCFI

Recipient of Padma Shri, Dr BC Roy National Award, Vishwa Hindi Samman, National Science Communication Award & FICCI Health Care Personality of the Year Award
Vice President Confederation of Medical Associations of Asia and Oceania (CMAAO)
Past Honorary Secretary General IMA
Past Senior National Vice President IMA
President Heart Care Foundation of India
Gold Medalist Nagpur University
Limca Book of Record Holder in CPR 10
Honorary Professor of Bioethics SRM Medical College Hospital & Research Centre
Sr. Consultant Medicine & Cardiology, Dean Board of Medical Education, Moolchand
Editor in Chief IJCP Group of Publications & eMedinewS
Member Ethics Committee Medical Council of India (2013-14)
Chairman Ethics Committee Delhi Medical Council (2009-15)
Elected Member Delhi Medical Council (2004-2009)
Chairman IMSA Delhi Chapter (March 10- March 13)
Director IMA AKN Sinha Institute (08-09)
Finance Secretary IMA (07-08)
Chairman IMAAMS (06-07)
President Delhi Medical Association (05-06)

Study links health Benefits from nature to frequency and duration of visits to green spaces

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Yet another study has corroborated the positive health outcomes of communing with nature.

Researchers from Australia have shown that people who made long visits to green spaces had lower rates of depression and high blood pressure, and those who visited more frequently had greater social cohesion. Higher levels of physical activity were linked to both duration and frequency of green space visits.

The results further suggested that up to a further 7% of depression cases and 9% of high blood pressure cases could be prevented if all city residents were to visit green spaces at least once a week for an average duration of 30 minutes or more.

For the first time, the researchers quantified the link between health outcomes and experiences of nature, as measured by intensity (i.e. the quality or quantity of nature itself), and the frequency and duration of a city resident’s experiences.

The participants’ experiences of nature were measured by three factors: The average frequency of visits to outdoor ‘green spaces’ during a year, the average duration of visits to these spaces across a week and the intensity of nature in these spaces – measured by the amount and complexity of greenery in that space.

The researchers concluded that higher levels of physical activity were linked to both duration and frequency of visits to green spaces.

The study is published online June 23, 2016 in the journal Scientific Reports

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