Five Essential Tips for Protecting Your Eyes and Vision

August 01, 2019

You take vitamins, you use moisturizer on your skin, and conditioner for your hair… but what have you done for your eyes lately? Healthy eyes and good vision make it possible to live our lives, drive to work and school, and enjoy the world around us. Here are five easy tips to help you safeguard one of your most valuable resources.

 

Pick the Right Pair of Sunglasses

Woman on the road wearing sunglases

The sun produces ultraviolet, or UV, rays that can cause skin cancer, in addition to a number of eye problems. Protecting your eyes is as simple as putting on a pair of sunglasses with lenses that block UV rays. 

Look for sunglasses that have a label stating their UV protection level: if they say UV400 or higher, this means they block 100% of UV rays. Polarized lenses can also help protect your eyes from glare and discomfort. 

Besides the lenses, the shape of your sunglasses is also important. Wraparound sunglasses block out more of the sun’s harmful rays. Large, wide lenses also offer additional protection. Make sure the glasses fit snug and close to your eyes. 

 

Protect Your Eyes While Doing Household Chores

Woman constructing wearing safety goggles

Safety goggles aren’t just for people who work construction or lab jobs. Every year, common household chemicals like bleach and other cleaners cause 125,000 eye injuries. Debris from home improvement projects or even gardening can also cause serious damage. 

Next time you’re at the hardware store stocking up on supplies, pick up a pair of sturdy safety glasses. Here are just a few examples of how and when you should use them: 

  • Any time you’re working with fertilizers, pesticides, and similar chemicals.
  • If you’re using power tools or anything that can create flying debris. You should also turn the tool off when anyone approaches – they need protection, too!
  • When you’re mowing the lawn or using a weed eater.

Once you’re done with your task, wash your hands thoroughly before touching your eyes or your face.

 

Choose Eye-Healthy Foods

Kid holding oranges in front of his eyes

As a kid, you were probably told to eat your carrots because they would help with your eyesight. Your mom knew what she was talking about. Carrots are packed with beta carotene, an important nutrient that your body converts to vitamin A, which supports healthy vision. There are plenty of other healthy, nutritious foods that may reduce the risk of age-related decline in eye health by as much as 25%. Here are a few suggestions to add to your shopping list.

  • Fish like tuna, salmon, sardines, and anchovies have high levels of omega-3 oils, which may help keep your eyes moist even if you stare at a computer all day.
  • Heart-healthy walnuts, peanuts, lentils, chia, and flax seeds are also rich in omega-3s and are full of vitamin E, which may offer additional protection from age-related damaged.
  • Lemons, oranges, and other citrus fruits are packed with antioxidants.

 

Stop Smoking and Limit Your Exposure to Second-Hand Smoke

Hand holding a cigarrete

In general, smoking is one of the worst things you can do to your body, but it’s especially hard on your eyes. Besides causing cancer and heart disease, smoking can cause dry eye, and increase your risk for cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and optic nerve problems that can lead to blindness. Second-hand smoke can also be a significant eye irritant, so do whatever you can to limit time spent around cigarette smoke.

 

See the Eye Doctor Regularly

Optometrist pointing at  an optometric table

Even if you have perfect vision and have never needed contacts or glasses, you should visit your eye doctor on a regular basis. If you’re healthy, your vision is good, and you have no family history of eye disease, follow these age-appropriate guidelines for eye exams.

  • In your 20s and 30s: every five to 10 years
  • From 40 - 54: every two to four years
  • From 55 - 64: every one to three years
  • When you reach age 65: every one to two years

If you have a child, taking them for an eye exam before they reach age three is a good way to identify common eye conditions that could lead to learning problems. 

Another reason why regular visits to the eye doctor are a good idea: some eye problems may be symptoms of more serious conditions. For example, blurry vision could also be a symptom of diabetes. An experienced eye doctor can also spot problems that might indicate cardiovascular disease, thyroid disease, and autoimmune disorders. 

Whether you just need your vision checked or your doctor recommends seeing a specialist, AltaMed can help. To learn more, or to make an appointment, call us at (888) 499-9303

 

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6 Top Healthy Living Apps for Your Physical & Mental Well-Being

March 01, 2019

Looking to improve your health? Join the club! Actually, with today’s health apps, you don’t need to. There are more than 318,000 health apps available to help you manage your health. From making smart food choices to exercising, and getting better sleep, these apps help turn health goals into healthy habits. So, grab your water bottle and your smartphone, and check out these six apps that can help you take control of your health.


Omada Health
Available for iOS and Android; Price: free for AltaMed Patients in Orange County
Offers Spanish language option
AltaMed people doing thai chi

Omada was created to help users lose weight and lower their risks of getting diabetes and heart disease. Omada provides the tools and support you need to succeed by helping you break up your health goals into small, easy steps. The app allows you to track your meals and activity/exercise, offers lessons on nutrition and stress, and connects you with a health coach to support and guide your progress. Plus, Omada gives AltaMed patients a valuable freebie: a smart scale that connects to the app. 


MapMyWalk
Available for iOS, Android & Samsung; Price: $0
Offers Spanish language option
AltaMed two women waling up the stairs

Using your phone’s built-in GPS, MapMyWalk tracks your daily walks and uses Google Maps to show you your route. It also collects and shows you your speed, distance, and calories burned. Receive audio updates on how you are doing while you walk, and use the website to see your history, make friends, join groups, and see how your friends are doing. 


Pillow (Sleep Tracker)
Available for iOS; Price: $0, one-time fee of $4.99 to unlock premium features
Offers Spanish language option
AltaMed older woman and husband sleeping

This easy-to-use app provides detailed information about your sleep cycle to help you get more restful sleep. Simply place your phone on your mattress near your pillow while you sleep and Pillow will track your activity during the night. You can also analyze and record your sleep, heart rate, and audio events such as snoring, sleep talking, or sleep apnea. 

Connect to Apple’s Health app to compare your sleep to other health measurements. Pillow’s intelligent alarm clock helps you wake up rested by waking you at the lightest sleep stage. The app comes with features that let you track your mood during the day, and gives you personalized recommendations. Premium features include unlimited access to your sleep history, nap modes, access to a large library of wake-up and sleep-aid programs and melodies, and the ability to export and download your data to use with other programs.  


Fooducate (Nutrition & Health Tracker)
Available for iOS; Price: $0, various premium levels available starting at $1.99
AltaMed woman shopping for fruit

Not only does Fooducate let you track the foods you eat each day, but it educates you on healthy eating choices. The Fooducate app lets you input the foods you eat to learn about their nutritional value by scanning a barcode or searching the extensive database. The app also offers a daily stream of tips and articles to help motivate you on your food journey. Look through the archive of foods, check for top graded food choices, and set individual goals beyond weight loss. Fooducate can even send you a reminder on your phone to use it while you are shopping at the supermarket.


Instant Heart Rate+ HR Monitor
Available for iOS, Android & Windows Phone; Price: $4.99, various premium levels available starting at $3.99
Offers Spanish language option
AltaMed heart app

Whether you’re just starting an exercise program or you’ve worked out for years, your heart rate is a good indicator of your fitness level. This straightforward heart rate app lets you discover your heart rate in 10 seconds or less. Just place the tip of your index finger on your phone’s camera and the app will detect color changes in your finger each time your heart beats. It then tells you your heart rate and puts the data in an easy-to-understand chart. Additional add-on features allow you to track heart health, access videos and motivational audio, and receive emails with tips on healthy living. Instant Heart Rate Monitor is used for research and trials by leading cardiologists, and is rated as the world’s best mobile heart rate measurement app. 


HabitList
Available for iOS; Price: $0, one-time fee of $4.99 to unlock premium features
AltaMed people high fiving

HabitList is designed to give you everything you need to set and reach your health goals, all wrapped up in a clear, direct format. Enter your goals and the app breaks everything down into clear steps by day and frequency to help you stay focused. The app helps you stay motivated by encouraging you to beat your own personal best at each repeated task, then rewarding you when you do. View trends over a period of time, create a flexible and personalized goal schedule, and easily check off your healthy to-do list. 


New to Physical Fitness? Start Here First.
At AltaMed, we love that there are so many tools to help make it fun and easy for people to work on their health goals. But you may have different health needs, and not every activity will be right for you. If you’ve never exercised before or you have an existing health condition like diabetes or heart disease, talk to your doctor before you start a program. They can help you determine the best options for you. 

We don’t have an app for that, but we do have a handy doctor search tool to help you find a doctor near you.

 

 

10 Easy Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

February 04, 2019

Trouble sleeping? You’re not alone. Thirty-five percent of American adults report getting less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep a night. A lack of sleep can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, arthritis, and other serious health problems. Between the demands of a full-time job, raising a family, enjoying social activities, or pursuing hobbies, it’s important to give your body the rest it needs. 

At AltaMed, we know that nothing’s more frustrating than a night of tossing a turning, so we’ve created a list of 10 easy tips to help get a better, longer rest. Read on and sleep tight!


1.    Put the Phone Down


AltaMed person in bed at night on their smartphone
 
It may be tempting to check your phone one more time before going to sleep, but the blue light that our devices emit will trick your body into staying awake. Because this light is similar to the natural daylight we experience while being awake, our bodies stop producing sleeping hormones when we scroll through our phones late at night. Doctors recommend putting your gadgets away at least a half hour before bedtime. 


2.    Wash Your Sheets


AltaMed woman taking fresh sheets out of dryer and smelling them
 
    
Washing your sheets once per week has been proven to increase sleep quality, according the National Sleep Foundation. Over time, our beds collect dead skin, sweat, and other irritants, which can trigger our senses and keep us awake. Be sure to clean other bedding frequently as well. 


3.    Say No to Late Night Snacks


AltaMed two women on the couch eating popcorn watching TV

Eating shortly before going to bed will keep you up and may result in worse sleep quality. It’s best to stop eating at least two hours before you plan to go to hit the hay. If you are hungry, limit portion size and avoid snacks with added sugar. 


4.    Check the Thermostat


AltaMed man adjusting the thermostat

Ever notice that it can be more difficult to sleep during hot, summer months? This is because temperature has a profound impact in our ability to fall asleep, even more so than loud or distracting noises. Doctors recommend keeping your room at a comfortable 70 or so degrees for optimal sleeping conditions. 


5.    Stick to a Schedule


AltaMed woman laying in bed with clock on night stand

Our bodies have a natural circadian rhythm, meaning we tend to wake up around sunrise and get tired after sunset. Studies have shown that people who do not follow consistent bedtimes report poorer sleep quality. Creating and following a set 7 or 8 hour sleep pattern will help you fall asleep faster. 


6.    Relax Your Mind


Altamed woman having breakfast

It can be tougher to fall asleep when our bodies experience stress. Rather than lay awake and worrying, try writing down a “to do” list of everything you need to accomplish the next day. Organizing your thoughts will help your mind and body relax. 


7.    Try Exercising - Just Not at Night


AltaMed couple running outdoors

Exercise is one of the best ways to prepare your body for a good night’s sleep. This is because physical activity can tire the body out, leading to an increase of hormones such as melatonin that helps cause sleepiness. One study showed that older adults who exercised regularly fell asleep 55% faster and slept for about 40 minutes longer. However, exercising too close to bedtime can keep your brain stimulated and overly-alert, so aim for morning or midday activity. 


8.    Cut Back on Caffeine


AltaMed cup of coffee

If you drink coffee every morning for a boost of energy, be sure to limit yourself to one or two cups. Caffeine stimulates the body’s nervous system for up to 12 hours, meaning a 3:00pm coffee break can lead to a restless night. If you need a boost of energy in the afternoon, try a healthy snack such as nuts or fruit instead. 


9.    Stay Out of Bed


AltaMed dad and daughter reading together

That’s right. Sleep experts actually recommend staying out of bed unless the purpose is to go to sleep or have sex. If you spend hours laying down and watching TV, using your phone, or reading, the brain begins to associate the bed with being awake, rather than getting rest. This can make it harder to fall asleep. 


10.    Breathe


AltaMed woman meditating

Even in the ideal sleep setting, it can still take time to settle our brains and fall asleep. Try this exercise, created by the Arizona Center for Integrated Medicine, to help your body relax:

  • Close your eyes and inhale slowly through your nose for 4 seconds.
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth for 8 seconds. 

    Continue to do this until you fall asleep. 


Sleep On It


AltaMed woman sleeping in cozy bed

By following these suggestions, you’ll be on the path to a better night’s sleep! Remember, sleep deprivation can sometimes be a symptom of more serious medical conditions. If you or a loved one experiences continued insomnia without relief, talk to a doctor. Visit AltaMed.org to find a location, make an appointment, and learn more.