I was in the hospital when I heard the word apple. Without hesitating I reached in my pocket to see if I had my phone. By the way, they were talking about the fruit, not the product. This got me thinking, has technology and our products now become more important than our health?
The Health Risks of Technological Advancement
Technology surrounds us and has become a large part of how we live on a daily basis. I’m not saying that technology and its progression and evolution is all bad, but certain aspects may pose a health risk. I mean I am writing this article on my laptop right now to try and reach out and help others. Technology has served many positive aspects and revolutionized how we take care of patients today.
There used to be the common phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. This may still remain true but in a different light. People have become so preoccupied with their gadgets that they are not taking the time to take care of themselves, let alone visit a doctor.
If I was to write the word apple on a piece of paper then ask someone about the word, I bet many people would think I was talking about the company. You wouldn’t think I was talking about the fruit the boasts antioxidants and fiber and may reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, stroke, cholesterol, and diabetes. Oh, diabetes you say?
If I was to do the same thing with the letters DM, a person would be quicker to think I was talking about Direct Messaging someone on Instagram than Diabetes Mellitus. This disease, caused by an elevated level of glucose in your body that can lead to kidney disease, nerve damage, high blood pressure, eye problems, strokes, sexual health issues, and even HD.
That’s HD, as in Heart Disease, not the High Definition screen which with many people spend hours a day watching. Ironically, sitting for hours in front of an HD can eventually lead to the other type of HD. There is actually an increase in risk with sedentary behavior such as sitting for prolonged hours in front of your HD television and Heart disease.
Although the screen is now high definition, your eyesight is now not. Increased screen time can lead to a multitude of visual defects including, myopia (near sidedness), retinal damage, eye strain, and blurred vision -- the opposite of high definition, not to mention the headaches, neck, shoulder, and back strain associated with sitting and staring in the same position for hours at a time.
While technology in many ways has given us greater access to information and improved communication among others, our obsession with it can have detrimental effects on our health. Many of us use a Personal Computer (PC) every day, but when is the last time that we saw a PC (Primary Care) doctor?
Technology, the Sedentary Lifestyle & the Health Risks Involved
The World Health Organization posted an article over a decade ago warning people that a sedentary lifestyle can be one of the top ten leading causes of death and disability in the world. Physical inactivity as a whole not only increases mortality, but can severely increase the risk of heart disease (HD), Diabetes Mellitus (DM), obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Physical inactivity can lead to poor diet and nutrition as well. It is a slippery slope with a downward spiral that studies have now shown can even increase your risk of cancer. The America Cancer Society indicates that about 1/5 of all cancer deaths in the United States each year are linked to excess body weight, poor diet, excessive alcohol intake, and decreased physical activity. Although there are genetic factors as well as cellular factors that continue to be discovered play a role, there is no denying that a healthy diet and physical activity contribute to cancer prevention.
Instead of being outdoors, while indoors locked to our computer screens, we risk Vitamin D deficiency (recently shown to be linked to an increase in cancer) as well as, again, an inactive and sedentary lifestyle. While sitting indoors many of us will eat processed food or snack on food high levels of nitrates or sodium, that have been linked to several deleterious health effects, including cancer. At the same time, we will binge eat, while multitasking on our devices, and lose sight of portion control. As I said, it’s a slippery slope.
So, the next time you find yourself spending too much time in front of a screen, think about your health and what you may be doing to your body. After all, we each only get one.
Follow my journey from the beginning @DoctorJosh_MD.