Article of the Week July 10-14 The Internet

The Internet – a Blessing and a Curse                      Article of the Week Monday July 11,2017

In our group reports I often talk about how our daily habits and behaviors either contribute to, or detract from our health.  As humans we are creatures of habit and we tend to eat, move, and think in similar patterns, day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year.

            This made me think about a habit that I have and share with millions and millions of people across the globe.  The habit I'm   referring to is using my smartphone and accessing the            internet.  I look at my phone or computer multiple times      throughout the day to check my email inbox, post a   Facebook update, research some health information or check a     sports score. 

As I'm typing right now, I have a window open on my computer to access the research I need to prepare this article.  I remember the days when researching a topic involved a trip to the library or pulling out a volume of Encyclopedia Britannica.  The internet is truly a blessing in the sense that it provides a plethora of information on virtually any topic, in the blink of an eye, wherever you are.

The question I want to address in this article of the week is, “does this 24-7 access to the internet come at a cost?”  Could our dependence on the worldwide web be having an effect on our health?

First of all, internet use has been found to be addictive, much like drugs or alcohol.  Internet addiction (IA) is now an officially recognized condition, and it's symptoms include the following:

Those that are addicted to the internet will experience anxiety when they don't have access to it, even for short periods of time.  This can manifest as increased heart rate and blood pressure.  Other studies have found that excess use of internet can lead to poor physical health and depression.  Not to mention, time spent online can lead to anti-social behaviour and family dysfunction.  Isn't it ironic that social media is the #1 reason that people use smartphones, yet by using a smartphone it eliminates the actual human element of connecting with someone in person, either by picking up the phone and talking or physically getting together.

On top of links to addiction, anxiety, depression and anti-social behaviour, research is showing that excessive internet use can affect your brain. Millenials are dealing with significantly greater problems focusing deeply on one task, and are experiencing even more forgetfulness than seniors!

            Internet use changes your brain structurally.  Brain scans have shown that those       who use the internet  consistently have a reduced amount of gray matter, reduced   cortical thickness and impaired cognitive functioning.  Further, cell phones and             wireless routers for Wi-Fi emit radiation.  In 2011, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer declared cellphones     a Group 2b “possible human carcinogen” related to the microwave radiation       emitted from the phone.  As such, these devices should never be held directly against your body for any length of time.  If you have Wi-Fi (wireless internet) in your home, I would recommend turning your router off at night when you aren't using it to reduce your exposure to electromagnetic fields while you're sleeping.

The reality is that we live in a world and a time where it is very difficult to stay current without access to, and utilization of the internet and smartphones.  The key as far as your health is concerned is to limit the amount of time that you spend using your cellphone and online. 

I would recommend that you alot 2 or 3 times a day to conduct your business and then to log off and remove yourself from our digitally-dominated world.  This will not only improve your physical health, it will also have a beneficial impact on your social (relationships) and emotional well-being as well.  And for your kids as well – make sure that they have boundaries and specific times when they are offline every day.

Have an amazing week while we are away on holidays and I look forward to communicating with you again next week!

Yours in Health,

Dr. Tim

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