Although technology has made our lives easier, increasingly we are dying of non-communicable diseases, often precipitated by lifestyle choices. Here are five health tips that can improve the quality of your life .
Without a doubt, we in the Caribbean are not as healthy as we should be. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO),
…compared with other sub regions of the Americas, the Caribbean has the highest rates of premature death among people, aged 30 to 69, from the four major NCDs: cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases.
(Source: Jamaica Observer)
From as early as 2007, Caribbean countries acknowledged the problem and formally committed to reduce non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and in 2012, they supported the WHO goal of reducing NCD deaths by 25 per cent by 2025. However, based on the efforts to date, projections indicate that the region will not achieve that target by the date stipulated.
To some degree, it could be argued that whilst technology has made our lives easier and more efficient, it has not necessarily made us any healthier. Increasingly, those of us who work on a computing devices and/or work indoors or in offices, are leading very sedentary lives. We walk very little and spend a relatively miniscule amount of time outdoors and in the sunshine. It is therefore no wonder that increasingly, NCDs that were thought of diseases of the aged, are now plaguing people in their 30s, and even younger.
While this article is not a tech or ICT issue per se, our overall wellbeing is paramount – in order for us to continue to enjoy ICT/tech. Hence, here are five health-related recommendations that can improve the quality of your life.
1. Exercise more
Although we might not think about it, our bodies are made to move: to be active. Physical activity is vital to our well being. Since most of us no longer have to work in the fields, or undertake considerable manual labour, we have to schedule physical activity into our lives.
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the average adult needs 150 minutes (2.5 hours) a week of moderate aerobic activity (e.g. brisk walking, swimming and mowing the lawn), or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity (e.g. running and aerobic dancing), and at least two strength training sessions per week (Source: Mayo Clinic). Essentially,, the rule of thumb is to try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, which depending on your lifestyle, can be broken down into more manageable chunks during the day.
2. Invest in your furniture, and use it
At your work desk, are you experiencing back problems, neck pain, tightness or soreness in your shoulders or upper back, soreness in your wrists from typing, soreness in your hips, or even a tingling sensation in your legs? If you answered yes to any one of those symptoms, it may have been caused by your being body being incorrectly aligned whilst sitting and working at your desk. At home, those of us who plop on the couch with our laptop on our lap or on the coffee table, and work for hours on end, are also doing our bodies a disservice.
To reduce the discomfort, it may be necessary to invest in ergonomic furniture, and ensure that they are adjusted properly for optimal alignment whilst working. It should be noted that over the long term, the slouching, poor posture and alignment, and general stress on our bodies, can lead to a whole host of health issues, such as repetitive strain injuries, nerve damage, bursitis, and even arthritis.
3. Get more fresh air
One of the perks of living and working indoors is being able to enjoy air conditioning. However, the air indoors, especially when it is recirculated in a closed system, as occurs with air conditioning, can be 100 times more polluted that what is outdoors (Source: NAIJ). Hence, prolonged exposure to poor indoor air can lead to respiratory-related diseases. Additionally, in the short term, headaches and dizziness, nausea (feeling sick), fatigue (extreme tiredness), shortness of breath or chest tightness, eye and throat irritation, and irritated, blocked or runny nose, are just a few of the ailments that can be experienced when the indoor air quality is poor (Source: National Health Service).
One of the best remedy to reduce the effects of poor indoor air quality, is to get more fresh air. If possible, open a window, or go outside regularly for a walk.
4. Give your eyes a break
For those of us who are proud that we can work on our computing devices for hours at a time without a break, this point is for you. Prolonged staring at your computer screen can cause eye strain, which includes symptoms such as eyes burning, neck aching, vision blurring, and head throbbing.
A number of external improvements can be made, such as tweaking the lighting, adjusting the position of the monitor relative to your eyes, or purchasing specialised eye glasses made for staring at monitors. However, while those options may help, it is also important to incorporate breaks into your schedule. A good practice that could be considered is for every 20 minutes of staring at the screen, find an object about 20 feet (6 or 7 metres) away , and stare at it for 20 seconds (Source: Digital Inspiration).
5. Get more rest
Finally, and noting that most of us tend to have long and stress-filled days, it is vital that we get adequate sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation (United States), adults require between seven and nine hours of sleep.
While many of us may pride ourselves on being able to function on less than six hours of sleep, over time one might experience problems including forgetfulness, poor concentration, mood fluctuations, weight gain and reduced immunity. Further, shorter sleep cycles suggest that we are not getting enough slow-wave deep sleep, which is the most restorative on the body.
Thanks to our fast-paced lives, slowing down may be easier said than done. It thus takes commitment, discipline and practise to put the work and distractions aside and try to relax and sleep.
Image credit: jasleen_kaur (flickr)