Is Technology Destroying Your Health?

African American Black woman sad serious using a laptop in her living room
Are you always checking your phone while you’re waiting in line at the supermarket, or stopped at a traffic light? Do you dig around for it in your purse and place it on the restaurant table as soon as you’re seated?

Well, you may be addicted to your phone.

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According to a new study smart phone users can develop what they call “checking habits,” and like most habits it’s not so easy to break.

The research, published in the Journal of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, reported that habitual checking for messages lasts less than 30 seconds and is usually done at intervals of ten minutes. Most folks with this habit end up compulsively checking their device an average of 34 times a day, and often don’t even realize they’re doing it.

What’s the draw? Neuroscientists say each time we get an email or text message our brains receive a tiny jolt of positive reinforcement. It feels so good we want to do it again – and again. Once our brains get used to this feedback, checking the phone becomes automatic, like snacking during the movies.

But as is the case with many habits, there are drawbacks. When we habitually check our phones we’re avoiding interacting with people or getting our chores done. And if we’re not paying full attention while we’re in our car there can be serious or even fatal consequences.

How to Break the Habit

Before checking, ask yourself whether it’s absolutely necessary. This way it becomes a conscious, not reflexive, decision.

  • Remind yourself that it’s rude and annoying if you’re around other people.
  • Create times during the day when you forbid yourself to check. If it makes you too uneasy, begin with ten minutes at a time and then extend by five minute intervals.
  • Make certain places phone-free, such as your bedroom, the bathroom, in restaurants, or the doctor’s waiting room.

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8 Signs Of Parkinson’s Disease

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Though African Americans are less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than other races, they do have greater disability and disease severity, and are less likely to be prescribed medication.

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Muhammad Ali is perhaps the most high-profile person to battle the condition, which could have been caused from repeated blows to the head. But it doesn’t require a boxing career or other forms of head trauma to develop the disease.

Studies show that African Americans may be more likely to be undiagnosed. Cultural and educational differences may prevent patients from seeking appropriate care, particularly at early stages, when symptoms are not yet disabling. One study showed that African Americans more than Whites may see parkinsonian symptoms as an inevitable part of aging and dementia more as a natural result of living a difficult life.

Parkinson’s disease creeps up slowly, starting with mild symptoms that are easy to ignore at first. Here’s what doctors look for:

1. Slow movement and clumsiness. If it takes longer than usual to button a shirt, make a phone call, or do any task that requires hand coordination — and there’s no other obvious explanation for it – it could be an early sign of Parkinson’s. This slowness of movement is known as bradykinesia. As the disease progresses, Parkinson’s disease patients may find themselves momentarily “freezing” like a statue while walking or turning, unable to take the next step.

2. Hand and leg shaking. About 70 to 80 percent of Parkinson’s disease patients have a “resting tremor” in the hands, arms, legs, jaw, or face. The shakiness occurs when, say, the patient rests her hand relaxed in her lap, as opposed to when moving to pour a cup of tea. The trembling could make it look as if she’s rolling a pill between her thumb and forefinger.

If your loved one’s hand is shaking while engaged — holding a cup or writing with a pen, for example — she may instead have what’s called an “essential tremor,” not Parkinson’s disease.

3. Stiffness or soreness. Rigidity of the muscles in the arms, legs, and body makes it harder to move. Getting out of bed in the morning, or standing up from a chair, can be difficult. Patients with Parkinson’s disease make fewer spontaneous body gestures and lose facial expressiveness. When flexing a bicep and then straightening the arm out, there may be a jerkiness to the motion, as if the arm is catching on a cogwheel.

4. One side of body is out of whack. Whether it’s a trembling pinky finger or a strange stiffness in the foot, the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease almost always affect just one side at first. Later, sometimes after many years, they spread to the other side.

5. A change in penmanship. One of the first oddities that many Parkinson’s disease patients notice is that their handwriting has become smaller and cramped — an early hint of motor difficulties.

6. Sadness and/or low energy. Parkinson’s patients commonly develop depression before showing problems with movement. Experts believe the mood disorder is part of Parkinson’s disease itself, not simply a reaction to having the illness.

7. Loss of sense of smell. Very early on, people with Parkinson’s disease often lose their sense of smell because the neurodegenerative process affects the olfactory system. However, a reduced sensitivity to smells can also result from other causes.

8. Difficult to understand or hear speech. Parkinson’s disease can make the voice softer, muffled, and slurred.