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Fresh Health News: Fall 2020

Parched Peepers

Too much screen time results in too little moisture for our eyes

Zoom meetings, social media sprees, endless e-mails, Netflix binges, Kindle page-turners—we’re now spending an inordinate amount of time staring fixedly at screens. Normally, we blink every four seconds to coat the eyes in a soothing tear film of water, oil and mucus. In the screen zone, that rate slows to about one blink per minute. As a result of our current digital lifestyle, dry eye disease has seen a jump. This common condition, caused by a lack of lubricating tears, leads to light sensitivity, mucus around the eyes, redness and itchiness of the eyes, eye fatigue and other symptoms.

Tips to give your goggles a reprieve when Googling:

• Set an alarm to sound every 20 minutes as a reminder to take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away.
• Crank up a humidifier to add moisture to dry indoor air to prevent your eyes from drying out too quickly.
• Try to blink more frequently when you’re using a screen for lengthy periods of time.
• Hold your mobile device at least 20 inches from your face. Our habit of placing small screens eight to 12 inches away slows down blink rates.
• Increase the font size on your screen to read comfortably from a farther distance.
• Avoid glare from overhead lights and windows by closing blinds and using low-watt bulbs. A screen glare filter can also reduce the amount of light reflected from the screen.


Try this…to soothe dry skin

Make your own colloidal oatmeal bath soak by grinding one cup of rolled oats into fine powder with a blender or food processor, then add to a warm tub. This simple anti-inflammatory treatment has been clinically shown to strengthen the skin barrier, boost moisture and calm winter-chapped skin.


Clocking Calories

In thermodynamics, a calorie is a calorie, but nutritionally that simplifies things too much. Calories from sugar certainly do not equal calories from broccoli. Adding to the equation, a new study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism explains that when we consume those calories may dictate how they’re processed. In a randomized, clinically controlled trial, researchers found that subjects who dined at 10 p.m. showed 20 percent higher blood sugar levels and 10 percent lower fat burn than those who ate the same meal at 6 p.m. Habitually eating dinner late can lead to weight gain and elevated blood sugar levels, raising the risk of chronic health woes like diabetes and heart disease. Instead, dietitians recommend enjoying your largest daily meal at breakfast or lunch. If afternoon creeps into evening and you’ll be eating late, pick up a high-protein snack such as Greek yogurt or nuts, then keep dinner small and low-calorie.


With Thanks

Veterans Day lands on November 11, but people who have served in our armed forces deserve appreciation every day. Roper St. Francis Healthcare’s Military Appreciation and Alignment Task Force honors veterans with special tributes such as reserved hospital parking and patriotic bracelets to recognize patients with a military background.


The Whole Picture

Multigrain. Honey wheat. Twelve grain. White wheat. The marketing lingo on whole-grain products can be quite misleading, explains a recent report in Public Health Nutrition. In fact, a product only needs to contain 51 percent whole grains to sport a whole-grain label. Whole grains refer to the entire edible part of a grain or seed, which boasts fiber, iron, vitamin B, fatty acids and antioxidants, but refined grains strip these nutrients away along with the bran and germ layers. USDA guidelines direct adults to daily consume 48 grams of whole grains, which are linked to lower risks of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. To make sure you’re going with the grain when buying bread, crackers, cereal and the like, look for the first ingredient to be whole grain, such as “whole oats” or “whole-wheat flour,” rather than enriched. An excellent fiber content on the nutrition label is also an indicator of a whole-grain product.


Why Zzzzs?

Good sleep is marked by both the right quantity and the best quality, and doctors recommend adults get seven to eight hours of uninterrupted rest nightly. Unfortunately, the heightened pressures of our current world have left many of us restless. A recent report from the journal Sleep Medicine points to a 37-percent increase in the rates of clinical insomnia as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a spike that could have dramatic effects on our health. Read on to learn more about the consequences of poor sleep.

  1. New research shows that the sleeping brain clears away proteins, toxins and waste products that can form into plaque and damage neurons. Scientists associate sleep disturbances with higher risks of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
  2. In a 2019 study, German researchers found that a reduction in sleep impairs the immune system’s T cells, which fight pathogens such as flu, herpes, HIV and cancer.
  3. Experts link sleep deprivation to risk factors for type 2 diabetes, such as trouble managing weight, hormone imbalances, insulin resistance and elevated levels of free fatty acids circulating in the blood.

Photographs by (man at computer) fizkes/Shutterstock; (night eating) Andrey Popov/Shutterstock; (whole grains) nehophoto/Shutterstock; (sleeping) fizkes/Shutterstock

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