Friday, September 2, 2016

8 Important Eye Care Tips

Contributing Author: The Tortoise

For many of us, vision is our primary way of experiencing the world. Protecting our eyes and eyesight is one of the most important things we can do to help maintain our quality of life. As we get older, we will inevitably experience age-related vision loss, since our eyes age with the rest of our body. However, there are 8 life-style practices which can help keep our eyes as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

  1. Get regular eye exams.
    This is essential. Eye problems such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts and retinopathy tend to progress slowly, which means that vision loss can go unnoticed until the condition is advanced. Many eye conditions can be treated if spotted early enough -- so go for your eye tests! Optometrists recommend an eye test every two years, more often if you're over 40, from a family with a history of eye disease, or from specific ethnic groups. People from African-Caribbean communities are at higher risk of developing glaucoma and diabetes, and those from South Asian communities are at greater risk of developing diabetic retinopathy from diabetes.1
  2. Have regular physical exams to check for diabetes and high blood pressure.
    Both of these conditions can cause eye problems if left untreated, including vision loss from diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and eye strokes.2
  3. Look out for changes in your vision.
    Changes in your vision can indicate trouble, so see your eye doctor immediately if they occur. Signs of potential problems include double vision, hazy vision, difficulty seeing in low light conditions, frequent flashes of light, floaters, red eyes, eye pain or swelling.3
  4. Exercise regularly.
    Research shows that exercise benefits the eyes, by reducing risks for high blood pressure, diabetes, hardening or narrowing of the arteries, and age-related macular degeneration.4, 5
  5. Eat highly-coloured fruits and vegetables.
    A plant-based diet high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds is an eye-healthy diet. Blue, purple and ruby-coloured berries, such as bilberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries etc. have high concentrations of both. Research has found that antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish can lower the risk of developing macular degeneration in people with high genetic risk.6
  6. Don't smoke.
    People who smoke are much more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, uveitis and other eye problems, compared to non-smokers.7, 8
  7. Protect your eyes from UV light.
    Ultraviolet light damages the eyes and can increase the risk of developing cataracts, pinguecula and other eye problems.9 Light reflecting from snow, sand and water can magnify these risks. Wear good-quality sunglasses which block 99 - 100% of UV rays when out in bright light.
  8. Drink moderately.
    Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of early age-related macular degeneration.10


1 Look after your eyes, National Health Service, UK

2 8 ways to protect your eyesight, Gary Heiting, All About Vision

3 ibid.

4 ibid.

5 Look after your eyes, National Health Service, UK

6 Age-Related Eye Disease Study -- Results, National Eye Institute

7 8 ways to protect your eyesight, Gary Heiting, All About Vision

8 Look after your eyes, National Health Service, UK

9 8 ways to protect your eyesight, Gary Heiting, All About Vision

10 Look after your eyes, National Health Service, UK

Image from Pixabay

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Humpday Hint: Women & Stroke: Worse Than You Think?

Contributing Author: The Tortoise

Do you know that:

  • Stroke is the 3rd leading cause of death for women.
  • Stroke kills TWICE as many women as breast cancer each year.
  • Stroke hits 55,000 more women than men each year (US).
  • Stroke will have hit 1 in 5 women by age 75 (UK).
  • Stroke will cause a disability in half of all stroke survivors.
  • Women are more likely to suffer a major disability from stroke than men.
  • Women are more likely to die from a stroke than men.

Common Stroke Symptoms (Men & Women):

  • Sudden numbness/weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of balance/coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Women also have unique stroke symptoms:

  • Loss of consciousness or fainting
  • General weakness
  • Difficulty of shortness of breath
  • Confusion, unresponsiveness or disorientation
  • Sudden behavioural change
  • Agitation
  • Hallucination
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain
  • Seizures
  • Hiccups

General Risk Factors (Men & Women):

  • Family history of stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking single-handedly doubles your risk of death from stroke
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Illegal drug usage (eg. cocaine increases risk of stroke by 700% in the 24 hours following use)
  • Lack of exercise (physical inactivity increases risk of ischaemic stroke (blood clot) by 50%
  • Being overweight (22% higher risk of ischaemic stroke) or obese (64% higher risk of ischaemic stroke)

Prevention & the good news:

  • Up to 80% of all strokes can be prevented.
  • Moderate exercise can reduce your risk of stroke by up to 27%.
  • Get treatment for high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Keep a healthy weight.
  • Stop smoking!
  • Don't use illegal drugs.
  • Moderate your alcohol consumption.
  • Research has found a clear 'dose-related' association between fruit and vegetable consumption and stroke risk, which means that the more you eat of these food groups, the lower your risk!


Women and Stroke, National Stroke Association, US

How do strokes affect women?, Diana Rodriguez, Everyday Health

State of the Nation Stroke Statistics January 2016, National Stroke Association, UK

Images from Pixabay

Monday, August 29, 2016

Humpday Hint: How to Avoid Computer Vision Syndrome

Contributing Author: The Tortoise

The unparalleled spread of technology in the last 50 years has produced a crop of medical conditions unique to it. Technology evolves far faster than human biology can adapt, and one result is the profusion of technology-based maladies which include everything from deep vein thrombosis to carpal tunnel syndrome and chronic back pain.

One such condition is Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) -- a form of eye strain and fatigue which creeps up on those who spend more than 3 hours a day at their computers.1 But with 40% of the planet's population now hooked up to the Internet,2 and the computerisation of most of the world's workplaces, it means billions of computer users are actually staring at their screens for much longer than 3 hours a day. Desk-bound jobs can mean people stay at their computers for the entire working day. As computerisation in the 21st century becomes more of a necessity than an option, professionals and others at potential risk include accountants, architects, bankers, engineers, flight controllers, graphic artists, journalists, academicians, secretaries and students, all of whom cannot work without the aid of computers.3 Then there are the gamers and virtual environment users: millions of children and adolescents play computer games for hours each day; similarly, users of virtual worlds such as Second Life and OpenSim are known for regularly spending half a day inworld; MMORPG and video gamers can be just as screen-bound.

Computer vision syndrome, as such, is a health problem which is increasingly common. Symptoms include dry eyes, red eyes, blurred vision, double vision, eye irritation or burning, chronic headaches, and neck or back pain.4 Statistics indicate that 70 to 90 percent of people who use computers extensively suffer from one or more symptoms of CVS.5 There is also concern that heavy computer use may put children at risk for early myopia:6 a 2009 study conducted by the National Eye Institute noted that the prevalence of nearsightedness among Americans had increased from 25 to 41.6 percent of the population in the 30 years since 1972 -- an increase of over 66 percent.7 While the study offered no conclusions for these statistics, it is interesting to note that the years 1974 -1977 saw the arrival of the first personal computers on the market -- among them the Scelbi & Mark-8 Altair, IBM 5100, RadioShack's TRS-80 and the Commodore PET8 -- events which kicked off a personal computing frenzy in history which continues to this day.

A key reason for CVS's overwhelming impact is that every sighted person who uses a computer screen is subject to its digitalised display aspects. Unlike words printed on paper which have sharply defined edges, the electronic characters generated by a computer monitor are made up of tiny pixels, creating blurred outlines. The blurred edges make it difficult for our eyes to maintain focus, and they "repeatedly attempt to rest by shifting their focus to an area behind the screen, and this constant switch between screen and relaxation point creates eyestrain and fatigue."9 There are additional factors contributing to CVS: the tendency to blink less while staring at screens (our blink rate drops from 17 or more blinks a minute to 12 - 15 blinks); a distance between eyes and screen which isn't optimal for comfortable focus (20 - 26 inches from the face); and screens which are placed too high (the centre of the monitor should be 4 - 8 inches lower than the eyes) which lead to too much exposure of the eye surface and neck discomfort.10

So what can we do? There are quite a few tricks we can utilise to lessen the risk of CVS.

  • Ensure that there is sufficient contrast on the screen, such as black writing on a white background.
  • Try to keep the screen brighter than the ambient light, so that your eyes do not strain to make out what is on the screen.
  • Keep your monitor brighter rather than dimmer (but not TOO bright), as a brighter monitor encourages the pupils to constrict, thus allowing your eyes a greater range of focus.
  • Avoid facing a sunlit window if you can, or use window shades to reduce glare.
  • Anti-glare covers for flat screen monitors are also available, as are glare-reducing spectacles.
  • Use a font size that is comfortable for your eyes - if you find yourself constantly squinting or leaning forward to read what is on the screen, the font size is too small.
  • Keep the screen free of dust, and if you have to, get a monitor with a high-resolution display.11

In addition, have your eyes examined regularly, and keep your prescription up to date. The American Academy of Ophthalmology also suggests the "20-20-20" rule for computer users: every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds. They also suggest using artificial tears to hydrate dry eyes, and using a humidifier.12 If, despite all these precautions, your eyes remain problematic, see your ophthalmologist.


1 Computer Vision Syndrome Affects Millions, Jane E. Brody

2 Internet Live Stats

3 Impact of Computer Technology on Health: Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), T.R. Akinbinu & Y.J. Mashalla

4 Computer Vision Syndrome Affects Millions, Jane E. Brody

5 Impact of Computer Technology on Health: Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), T.R. Akinbinu & Y.J. Mashalla

6 Children and Computer Vision Syndrome, Gary Heiting & Larry K. Wan

7 Increased Prevalence of Myopia in the United States Between 1971-1972 and 1999-2004, Susan Vitale, et al, JAMA Ophthalmology

8 History of Computers: A Brief Timeline, Kim Ann Zimmermann, LiveScience

9 Computer Vision Syndrome Affects Millions, Jane E. Brody

10 ibid.

11 ibid.

12 Computers, Digital Devices and Eye Strain, American Academy of Ophthalmology

Friday, August 26, 2016

Research Shows Two Ways to Lose Weight Without Increasing Exercise

Contributing Author: The Tortoise

For some of us with certain disabilities, losing weight can be a challenge. Spinal cord injuries and chronic pain conditions, for example, can make exercising difficult if not impossible. As we get older, losing weight also becomes harder as our metabolisms slow down. Consequently, for many of us, watching our diet is the only way to keep our weight constant. The following two methods of losing weight will be useful to those of us who cannot increase the amount of exercise we already do, or indeed, exercise at all.

Method #1: Increase the length of your fasting period at night

In January 2016, the University of Surrey teamed up with BBC Two's Trust Me, I'm A Doctor's (TMIAD) medical team to conduct a first-ever experiment on time-restricted food intake and weight loss, on humans.1 Prior studies on mice had already revealed that moving their feeding times closer together in the day, which produced a longer 'fasting' period overnight during which no food was eaten, resulted in the mice losing weight and acquiring healthier blood sugar and cholesterol levels - even though they consumed exactly the same food and number of calories.2,3 The University of Surrey and TMIAD carried out an equivalent controlled and randomised study with 16 human volunteers over 10 weeks. Half the subjects carried on with their normal routines. The other half took their breakfasts later by 90 minutes, and their dinners earlier by 90 minutes, effectively extending their 'fasting' period at night by 3 hours. All subjects ate the same amounts of food as normal. At the end of 10 weeks, the time-restricted group had lost body fat, and showed significantly healthier changes in fasting blood sugar and cholesterol levels, than the control group. There was no difference in the groups' blood fats (triglycerides).4

Researchers believe two factors are at work. The first is that intermittent fasts can be good for you, by limiting the body's expression of an insulin-like growth hormone called IGF-1. Food consumption generates IGF-1, which keeps the body in a 'growth' or 'go' state, where cells are driven to reproduce and facilitate growth. This state also speeds up the aging process. University of Southern California's biogerontologist Professor Valter Longo compares the 'growth' mode to "driving along with your foot hard on the accelerator pedal." Fasting, however, reduces IGF-1 and encourages the body to go into 'repair' mode, by switching on DNA repair genes.5

The second factor is that your body has a 'body clock' which regulates how it deals with food over the 24 hour period. Your body starts preparing naturally for sleep and night-time fasting towards the evening. Melatonin hormonal levels, which are associated with sleep, begin to rise, and along with them, blood fat and sugar levels. This occurs because the body is preparing to handle the impending fast by bringing fats out of storage. Consequently, eating during this period when blood sugar and fat levels are already high, can be harmful to your health.6

Method #2: Eat BEFORE exercise if you are female, AFTER if you are male

Yet another "world-first" experiment was conducted by the University of Surrey and BBC Two's Trust Me, I'm A Doctor television series in January 2016.7 Like the experiment on time-restricted feeding, this second experiment was conducted to see if levels of body fat responded to a minor change in daily routine. Research by nutritionist Dr Adam Collins had suggested that the amount of fat people burned off during exercise responded to whether they exercised before or after they ate - and that this sequence was different for women and men.8 TMIAD and the University of Surrey carried out a randomised and controlled 4 week experiment with 30 volunteers, putting them through a regime of exercise conducted both before and after consumption of carbohydrate drinks or placebos.9

The results supported Dr Collins' previous studies: men and women burn carbohydrates differently. TMIAD noted that: "Men are very much 'carbohydrate burners' - if as a man you eat carbohydrate then your body is going to burn it rather than fat. Just giving the men carbohydrate at any time in our experiment made them burn a bit less fat!"10 This means that if you are a man, it is better to eat AFTER exercising, as this will force your body to burn off fat in the absence of carbohydrates. For women, the opposite is at work: Eat BEFORE exercising if you want to burn more fat. This is because women's bodies "tend to burn fat more easily than men's, and are not fueled so much by carbohydrate. Moreover, women are much better at conserving carbohydrate during exercise. So when women eat carbohydrate soon after exercise, this is effectively overloading them with fuel, and interferes with the body's ability to burn fat."11


1 The big experiment: Could I lose fat just by changing my meal times?, Trust Me, I'm A Doctor, BBC Two

2 Time-restricted feeding without reducing calorie intake prevents metabolic diseases in mice fed a high-fat diet, Megumi Hatori, et al, Cell Metabolism

3 Time-restricted feeding and risk of metabolic disease: A review of human and animal studies, Jeff Rothschild, et al, Nutrition Reviews

4 The big experiment: Could I lose fat just by changing my meal times?, Trust Me, I'm A Doctor, BBC Two

5 The 5:2 diet: Can it help you lose weight and live longer?, Michael Mosley, The Telegraph

6 Is eating in the evenings bad for me?, Trust Me, I'm A Doctor, BBC Two

7 Trust Me, I'm A Doctor, Series 4, Episode 1 Guide, BBC Two

8 The effect of food timing on fat oxidation during exercise and resting recovery, M. Honnor, et al, Proceedings of the Nutrition Society (2012), 71 (OCE3), E236

9 The big experiment: How can I get my body to burn more fat, without doing more exercise?, Trust Me, I'm A Doctor, BBC Two

10 ibid.

11 ibid.

Image from Pixabay