Health & Fitness
Improve Your Child’s Health PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 09 October 2014 14:13

100914h1It’s estimated that about one-third of kids in the United States are overweight or obese. Being overweight as a child can lead to health problems later in life.

Fortunately, as a parent or other caregiver, there are things you can do to help your child consume healthy foods and beverages, be physically active, and get to — and stay at — a healthy weight.

For example, try these tips from “Helping Your Overweight Child” from the Weight-control Information Network (WIN), part of the National Institutes of Health:

Choose Healthy Foods and Beverages

• Buy and serve fruits and vegetables — fresh, frozen, canned or dried. Let your child choose them at the store. Get fruit without added sugar and vegetables without salt or added fats.

• Eat fast food less often. When you do visit a fast-food restaurant, encourage your family to choose healthier options, such as grilled instead of fried chicken.

• Don’t use food as a reward when encouraging kids to eat. For example, promising dessert to a child for eating vegetables sends the message that vegetables are less valuable than dessert.

Get More Physically Activity

• Be active together as a family. Assign active chores, such as making beds, sweeping or vacuuming. Plan active outings, like a walk through a local park.

• Children need about 60 minutes of physical activity each day, but they don’t have to do it all at once. Several 10- or even five-minute bursts of activity throughout the day are just as good.

• Activities that kids choose on their own are often best. Encourage your child to play soccer with friends, catch and throw a ball, dance, or bike (with a helmet).

Additional Information

Check out WIN’s “Helping Your Overweight Child.” This fact sheet features ideas for supporting your child, lists of healthy snacks and activities your child may enjoy, and more tips to help your child choose healthy foods and beverages and be more physically active each day. Contact WIN to get your free copy. Or go to www.win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/over_child.htm to read and download the fact sheet.

For more information, call WIN at 1-877-946-4627 or visit www.win.niddk.nih.gov. You can also like WIN on Facebook at www.facebook.com/win.niddk.nih.gov.

CAPTION: Choose healthier foods for you and your family. Serve more fruits and vegetables, and get your children more involved when selecting groceries at the store.


 
Buckle Up: Keep Your Child Safe In or Near Cars PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 09 October 2014 14:11

By Chris Graham • Special to the Forum

It’s a fact of life in our society that cars are a convenience we take for granted and an integral part of our lives. But cars can pose many dangers to our children and teenagers.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children and teens in the United States. Thousands more are injured or killed in backover/frontover incidents, child vehicular heatstroke, trunk entrapment and power window strangulation.

Motor vehicle crashes took the lives of 1,100 children under the age of 15 in 2012 and over 176,000 were treated for injuries in local hospitals.

In the U.S. at least 104 children are killed and an additional 2,400 are injured each year by being accidentally backed over by vehicles, according to the Center for Disease Control. The average age of these victims is 12 to 23 months.

These tragedies usually involve a loving parent, grandparent, close relative or care giver who don’t believe they could ever hurt their child. However, our lives today are full of demands and deadlines causing us to be rushed, stressed, distracted or fatigued.

The key to reducing the rate of dangerous occurrences with cars and children is to be aware that they do happen, how they happen and to be proactive in gaining knowledge on how to prevent them.

The good news is that there are steps we can take to provide the safest environment possible for our children when in and around cars.

Be sure all child passengers in a vehicle are buckled in a size and age appropriate car seat, booster seat or seat belt. The safest seat for your child is the one that fits properly for their weight and height. Fitted car seats reduce the risk of death in car crashes by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers.

Children under the age of 12 years should always ride in the back seat properly restrained. Everyone in the car should be properly buckled up every time the vehicle is in motion.

Children should remain rear-facing in their child passenger safety seat until the age of two or until they reach the maximum height and weight limit for their seat when traveling in a vehicle. The middle of the backseat is the safest spot if the seat can be properly installed in this position.  Airbags can kill children riding in the front seat.

Never leave children alone in or around cars. To avoid unintentionally leaving children in an unattended and potentially hot vehicle, leave an essential item in the backseat such as a handbag, phone or briefcase. Make it a habit.

Put a stuffed animal in the car seat when the child is not there and then moving the stuffed animal to the front seat when the child is in their seat. This works as a visual reminder that the child is in the car.

To avoid backover tragedies always walk around the vehicle prior to moving the car in reverse or pulling forward. Teach your children to never play around a vehicle and keep the driveway off limits as a recreational area.

No one wants to harm the children we love and promise to protect. Now is the time to learn all that you can to keep them safe when in and around cars.

Chris Graham is the Trauma Prevention Coordinator at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley.

Many more essential safety tips can be found on the following sites:

www.nhtsa.gov

www.cdc.gov

www.kidsandcars.org

www.safekids.org

Eden Medical Center will hold a free infant car seat inspection/installation on Thursday, Oct. 16 from 10 a.m. to noon at Eden Medical Center, lower employee parking lot off of Lake Chabot Road. First come, first served. Please allow at least 45 minutes for the inspection. Questions, please call (510) 727-3176.


 

 
WIC Program Helps Low-Income Families Stay Healthy PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 09 October 2014 14:09

If you need nelp getting healthy food for your family and are on a limited income, Alameda County’s WIC (Women, Infants, Children) Program may be able to help.

Many local families aren’t familiar with the program or think they don’t qualify, when in fact many do.

If you are pregnant, just had a baby, or are raising children under 5, you can get free checks to buy healthy foods with the WIC Program, along with nutrition counseling and classes, breastfeeding help and referrals to health care.

You can pick up a free pregnancy test kit and get referrals to prenatal care, get painless free screening for anemia, or take nutrition classes on line.

You can get WIC whether you are unemployed, disabled, receiving government assistance, in the military, even if someone in the family is working. A family of two (pregnant woman and unborn baby) can earn up to $2,426 per month before taxes – a family of three up to $3,051. Migrant workers are also encouraged to apply for the program’s servcies.

WIC programs are available through the Alameda County Public Health offices located in the following cities:

• Hayward at 24085 Amador St., Suite 100

• Fremont at 39155 Liberty St., Suite H840

• East Oakland at 7200 Bancroft Ave.

• North Oakland at 3600 Telegraph Ave.

Call 510-595-6400 or drop in at one of the offices (best times are Mondays, Tuesday, Thursdays or Fridays at 8:35 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.).


 
County Reports Two Cases of Enterovirus D68 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 09 October 2014 14:08

100914h2Alameda County health officials reported two cases of the rare Enterovirus D68 last week. There were 14 known cases in the state and some 500 cases nationwide as of Friday. All of the California cases affected children between 1 and 15 years of age.

The virus generally causes symptoms similar to a common cold, including fever, runny nose, sneezing, coughing and body aches, but there have been rare cases of severe breathing troubles and, even more rarely, neurological symptoms, including polio-like muscle weakness. Only one California case, a child in Los Angeles, has suffered partial paralysis.

The State Health Department advises parents to seek immediate medical attention for children experiencing breathing difficulty.

EV D68 is spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or touches contaminated surfaces. The season for the virus generally extends from late summer to early fall.

 

 
New Imaging Technology Boosts Breast Cancer Detection PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 25 September 2014 21:23

092514h1By Keyvan Nouri, M.D. • Special to the Times

The best defense against breast cancer is early detection.

One of the most common tools we use to detect breast cancer is imaging, such as mammography or ultrasound. Advances in technology now allow us to produce highly detailed, multi-dimensional images, which improve cancer screening and detection.

Eden Medical Center is home to two of the most advanced breast imaging modalities available: magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and breast tomosynthesis (3D mammograms). Physicians can now use these imaging methods to detect cancer in its earliest stages through in-depth images that were not attainable before.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive technique and does not involve exposure to radiation. Instead, this imaging test uses strong magnetic fields, radio frequency pulses and a computer monitor to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues and bones.

A breast MRI is not meant to replace mammography, but is used as a supplemental tool for women at high risk for breast cancer or to help determine the extent of cancer after a new diagnosis.

Breast MRI can also be used to further evaluate abnormalities found in a routine mammogram.

Breast Tomosynthesis is another high-tech tool in the fight against breast cancer, a revolutionary technique approved by the FDA in 2011.
Also known as 3D mammography, it has enabled radiologists to view the inside of the breast layer-by-layer, helping to see fine details more closely, especially in women with dense breasts. These 3D mammograms have greatly improved cancer detection and helped to reduce false positives, which have decreased patient anxiety, expense and inconvenience.

During the procedure, multiple low-dose images called “slices” of the breast are taken at different angles. Like a regular mammogram, the patient is exposed to very low doses of radiation, well below government safety standards.

And, like breast MRIs, tomosynthesis is not a replacement for a regular mammogram. Tomosynthesis is a valuable tool for women with dense breasts because the images can minimize overlapping tissue. The technique is also used as a follow up to a mammogram because it can offer a better view of the size, shape and location of an abnormality.

Talk to your doctor if you have a family history of breast cancer, dense breasts or any concern about the health of your breasts. And, if further studies are needed, physicians at Eden now have two powerful tools available to diagnose and treat breast cancer.

Keyvan Nouri, M.D., is a board-certified radiologist affiliated with Eden Medical Center.

Dr. Nouri will speak at a symposium, “The 4-1-1 on Early Cancer Detection,” at Eden on Thursday, Oct. 9, from 7 to 9 p.m. For more information, call (888) 445-8433 or visit edenmedcenter.org.

CAPTION: Breast Tomosynthesis, also known as 3D mammography, helps radiologists see fine details more closely, especially in women with dense breasts.

 

 
A Reminder of Mental Health Services in Alameda County PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 25 September 2014 21:22

The high profile suicide of beloved Bay Area actor Robin Williams has refocused attention on mental illness and depression. Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for the deaths of approximately 30,000 Americans each year.

From 2006-2008, Alameda County had 362 suicides, nearly 8 for each 100,000 residents. Under the Affordable Care Act, health plans through Covered California must now cover preventive services like depression screening for adults and behavioral assessments for children.

According to the National Institute of Health, many people with clinical depression never seek the help of a professional, yet the majority can get better with treatment.

Alameda County’s Behavioral Health Care Services has an extensive local suicide prevention program that includes access to a 24-hour suicide-prevention hotline, grief counseling, senior and teen counseling, and community education at www.crisissupport.org.

The “Know The Signs” statewide suicide prevention campaign is another resource at www.suicideispreventable.org.

Teens can text “safe” to 839863 from 4 to 11 p.m. seven days a week, and correspond about mental health issues ranging from stress, anxiety, depression, relationships or suicide. Teens will be connected to a local counselor to talk about what’s on their minds via text message.  

Other resources include Mental Health Association of Alameda County (www.mhaac.org) and PEERS at www.peersnet.org.
For more information on the mental health benefits in the Affordable Care Act, visit aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/2013/mental/rb_mental.cfm.


 
Do You Know Your Medicare Rights? PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 25 September 2014 21:20

By David Sayen • Special to the Times

As a person with Medicare, do you have any rights and protections? You certainly do!

You have rights whether you’re enrolled in Original Medicare — in which you can choose any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare — or Medicare Advantage, in which you get care within a network of health care providers.

Your rights guarantee that you get the health services the law says you can get, protect you against unethical practices, and ensure the privacy of your personal and medical information. You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect at all times, and to be protected from discrimination.

You also have the right to get information in a way you understand from Medicare, your health care providers and, under certain circumstances, Medicare contractors.

This includes information about what Medicare covers, what it pays, how much you have to pay, and how to file a complaint or appeal. Moreover, you’re entitled to learn about your treatment choices in clear language that you can understand, and to participate in treatment decisions.

One very important right is to get emergency care when and where you need it — anywhere in the United States.

If you have Medicare Advantage, your plan materials describe how to get emergency care. You don’t need permission from your primary-care doctor (the doctor you see first for health problems) before you get emergency care.

If you’re admitted to the hospital, you, a family member or your primary-care doctor should contact your plan as soon as possible. If you get emergency care, you’ll have to pay your regular share of the cost, or copayment. Then your plan will pay its share.

If your plan doesn’t pay its share, you have the right to appeal.

In fact, whenever a claim is filed for your care, you’ll get a notice from Medicare or your Medicare Advantage plan letting you know what will and won’t be covered. If you disagree with the decision, you have the right to appeal.

You don’t need a lawyer to appeal in most cases, and filing an appeal is free. You won’t be penalized in any way for challenging a decision by Medicare or your health or drug plan. And many people who file appeals wind up with a favorable outcome.

For more information on appeals, you can read our booklet “Medicare Appeals,” available at www.medicare.gov/Publications. Or call us, toll free, at 1-800-MEDICARE.

You can also file a complaint about services you got from a hospital or other provider. If you’re concerned about the quality of the care you’re getting, call the Quality Improvement Organization (QIO) in your state to file a complaint. A QIO is a group of doctors and other health care experts who check on and improve the care given to people with Medicare.

You can get your QIO’s phone number at www.medicare.gov/contacts or by calling 1-800-MEDICARE.

Many people with Original Medicare also enroll in Medicare Part D prescription drug plans. Here, too, you have certain rights.

For example, if your pharmacist tells you that your plan won’t cover a drug you think should be covered, or it will cover the drug at a higher cost than you think you’re required to pay, you can request a coverage determination.

If that decision isn’t in your favor, you can ask for an exception.

Ask for an exception if you, your doctor, or your pharmacist believes you need a drug that isn’t on your drug plan’s list of covered medications, also known as a formulary.

For more details, read our booklet, “Medicare Rights and Protections,” at www.medicare.gov/Publications/Pubs/pdf/11534.pdf.
David Sayen is Medicare’s regional administrator for California.

 

 
Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 11 September 2014 11:15

Faulty communication between brain and intestinal tract is one cause of symptoms

091114h1By Vishal Ghevariya, M.D. • Special to the Times

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that causes episodes of abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea or constipation.

IBS is a chronic condition that needs to be managed on a long-term basis. The good news is that IBS rarely leads to more serious diseases and symptoms can be controlled by lifestyle changes, medication and managing stress.

Signs and Symptoms of IBS

Abdominal pain and discomfort is the key symptom of IBS, accompanied by diarrhea, constipation or a combination of both. The pain is often relieved by having a bowel movement and can sometimes get worse after eating.

Symptoms can also change over time, alternating between frequent flare-ups and periods when symptoms disappear. Other common symptoms of IBS include bloating, urgent need to use a restroom, white or yellow mucus in the stool, and excess gas. People diagnosed with IBS have these symptoms for at least six months.

Causes of IBS

It’s not known exactly what causes irritable bowel syndrome, but a variety of factors play a role.

Health experts believe that faulty communication between the brain and the intestinal tract is one cause of symptoms. The poorly coordinated signals can make your body overreact to the digestive process.

The opposite may also occur, where weak intestinal contractions slow food passage and lead to constipation.

Abnormalities in your gastrointestinal nervous system also may play a role. Unusually sensitive intestines can cause you to feel greater discomfort when your abdomen stretches from gas or stool.

Certain stimuli have also been known to trigger IBS symptoms, including:

• Eating certain foods

• Stress, anxiety or depression

• Hormonal changes, such as those occurring during a menstrual cycle

• Some medicines, such as antibiotics

• Gastroenteritis (bacterial infection in the digestive tract)

• Genetics

Managing Your Symptoms

There is no cure for IBS, but there are things you can do to help relieve symptoms.

Lifestyle changes, such as diet or reducing stress can alleviate symptoms. If certain foods set off or worsen symptoms, reduce or avoid them. It may also be helpful to eat smaller and more frequent meals. Getting enough rest and exercise can help reduce stress levels and positively influence IBS.

If lifestyle changes do not completely relieve IBS symptoms, a number of medications may be helpful, including antispasmodics, anti-diarrheal medications, laxatives or anti-anxiety medications.

There is some evidence that certain probiotics may help improve IBS symptoms. Recent clinical trials have also shown that antibiotics, which reduce or alter the bacteria in the gut, may relieve the symptoms of IBS.

When to see a doctor

It’s important to see your doctor if you have a persistent change in bowel habits or if you have any other signs or symptoms of IBS for an extended period of time.

Also, see your doctor if you have any of these additional symptoms which may indicate a more serious condition:

• Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool

• Abdominal pain that progresses or occurs at night

• Unexplained weight loss

• Anemia

• Fever

Dr. Vishal Ghevariya is a board-certified gastroenterologist and is affiliated with Eden Medical Center.

CAPTION: Abdominal pain and discomfort is the key symptom of irritable bowel syndrome.


 
Learn Infant CPR, First Aid PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 11 September 2014 11:13

091114h2The American Heart Association has created a new online course designed to meet the training needs of child care providers while also being a comprehensive resource for parents, grandparents, teachers, babysitters or anyone responsible for the safety of children.

What You Can Learn

Combining online and hands-on components, this one-stop-shop course teaches critical first aid skills, ranging from how to create a safe environment, to preventing injuries in the first place, to lifesaving CPR.

The course covers illnesses and injuries, bleeding and bandaging, allergic reactions and how to use an epinephrine pen, asthma, drowning, bites and stings, burns, choking, CPR, using an Automated External Defibrillator and how to help.

What One Father Found

“It is so easy to take a CPR course. And it is so important to do, so that in a moment of panic, you can still function,” said Eli Thomas, who was able to save his 2-year-old from nearly drowning, thanks to American Heart Association CPR training he took at a company-organized retreat.

The course is called Heartsaver Pediatric First Aid CPR AED, and it helps caregivers know how to respond to and manage illnesses and injuries in a child or infant in those first few vital minutes until professional help arrives.

More Help

For further advice about how to keep your little ones safe, go to www.heart.org/safekids

— North American Precis Synd., Inc.


 
Make a Checkup Part of Your Back-to-School Plan PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 August 2014 13:42

082814h1By Mika Hiramatsu, MC, FAAP • Special to the Times

Binder paper, pencils, backpack, maybe some new clothes, a pair of larger-sized shoes and… shots? This year, add a visit to your pediatrician’s office to your back-to-school checklist.

California law requires all children entering 7th through 12th grade to show proof of a Tdap vaccine this year.

“Tdap” stands for “Tetanus” (a paralyzing disease also known as “lockjaw”), “diphtheria” (a neurologic disease) and “acellular pertussis” (whooping cough). Acellular means that the cells of the whooping cough germ have been taken out of the immunization, which reduces side effects.

While most people know that tetanus shots are recommended every 10 years (the “rusty nail shot”), not everyone is aware of the current high risk of pertussis (whooping cough). There is currently a whooping cough outbreak in California, with over 3,500 cases and 3 infant deaths so far this year.

In 2010, 9,500 Californians were diagnosed with pertussis, and 10 infants died. It was the largest outbreak in 55 years. The surge has been tied to 1) the decreasing immunization of infants because of parental worries about vaccine side effects and 2) waning immunity in adolescents.

It’s a very good idea to make sure your child’s shots are up-to-date because whooping cough is a very serious, even fatal, disease. In Asia, it is known as the “100-day cough” because that’s roughly how long symptoms last.

When you bring your child to see your pediatrician, he or she will also check for other immunizations that might be due. For instance, the meningococcal vaccine is recommended for all children ages 11 to 12 years old. Meningitis is an infection of the tissues surrounding the brain. It can cause seizures and death.

Other immunizations your child might need include those to prevent measles, hepatitis A and B, polio, chicken pox, pneumococcus and human papilloma virus.

Right now, we also have a local outbreak of measles, mostly from cases imported from Asia and Europe. Roald Dahl, the author of James and The Giant Peach, lost his young daughter to measles.

It’s a good idea to ask your pediatrician for a complete checkup, including a full physical exam, with measuring your child’s height, weight, blood pressure and body mass index as well as performing eyesight, hearing and other necessary tests.

Concerns regarding vaccine safety, including mercury-containing preservatives, have been carefully studied and refuted.

Suggested links to developmental disorders, such as autism, are false, and some rumor-mongers have been charged with dishonesty and abuse. Unfortunately, delaying or avoiding immunizations puts children at unnecessary risk for serious disease or death.

A recent report showed that the childhood mortality rate for chicken pox in the U.S. has decreased by 97 percent since a vaccine was introduced. At the same time, the number of U.S. measles cases is higher than it has been in 15 years because of people avoiding immunization. For additional information, check out www.immunize.org.

Get your student ready for school by visiting your doctor’s office and ensure that your child is healthy and stays that way all year.

Mika Hiramatsu, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician and affiliated with Eden Medical Center.

CAPTION: Immunizations your child might need include those to prevent measles, hepatitis A and B, polio, chicken pox, pneumococcus and human papilloma virus. Also, California law now requires that all children entering 7th through 12th grade show proof of a Tdap vaccine this year.


 
What Is and Isn’t Included in Medicare? PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 August 2014 13:40

By David Sayen • Special to the Times

Medicare helps pay for a wide variety of medical services and goods in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other healthcare settings.

But it doesn’t cover everything, and it’s useful to know what is and isn’t included.

Services are covered either under Medicare Part A or B. If you have both, you can get many Medicare-covered services whether you have Original Medicare or a Medicare health plan.

Part A is Hospital Insurance and it helps pay for inpatient care in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities (not long-term care) and religious nonmedical health care institutions, as well as hospice care and home health care services.

You can find out if you have Parts A and B by looking at your Medicare card. If you have Original Medicare, you’ll use this card to get your Medicare-covered services. If you join a Medicare health plan, in most cases you must use the card from the plan to get your Medicare-covered services.

Part B (Medical Insurance) helps cover medically necessary doctors’ services, outpatient care, home health services, durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs and walkers, and other medical services.

Part B also covers many preventive-care services.

Under Original Medicare, if the yearly Part B deductible ($147 in 2014) applies, you must pay all costs (up to the Medicare-approved amount) until you meet the Part B deductible before Medicare begins to pay its share.

After your deductible is met, you typically pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount of the service, if the doctor or other healthcare provider accepts assignment. (“Accepting assignment” means that a doctor or other provider agrees to be paid directly by Medicare, to accept the payment amount Medicare approves for the service, and not to bill you for any more than the Medicare deductible and coinsurance.)

You’ll pay more if you see doctors or providers who don’t accept assignment. And, there’s no yearly limit on what you pay out-of-pocket.

If you’re in a Medicare Advantage plan (like an HMO or PPO) or have other insurance, your costs may be different. Contact your plan or benefits administrator directly to find out about the costs.

Under Part B, Medicare pays for many preventive services (such as screenings for cancer and heart disease) that can detect health problems early when they’re easier to treat. You pay nothing for most covered preventive services if you get the services from a doctor or other qualified provider who accepts assignment.

However, for some preventive services, you may have to pay a deductible, coinsurance, or both.

If you need certain services that aren’t covered under Part A or Part B, you’ll have to pay for them yourself, unless:

•You have other insurance (or Medicaid) to cover the costs;

•You’re in a Medicare health plan that covers these services.

Services and goods that Medicare doesn’t cover include long-term care, routine dental or eye care, cosmetic surgery, acupuncture and hearing aids.

David Sayen is Medicare’s regional administrator for California. You can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-633-4227.


 
Studies Show ‘Screen Time’ Disrupts Melatonin Surge PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 14 August 2014 11:59

081414h1By Joanna Cooper, M.D. • Special to the Times

There’s a lot of talk about our “addiction” to technology. Aside from the impact of technology on our social lives, what if our cherished devices are bad for our health? When it comes to getting enough restful sleep, it turns out they may be.

The timing of sleep and wakefulness is controlled by two areas in the brain. One is highly sensitive to light and drives wakefulness, while the other (the pineal gland) secretes melatonin when the light dims in the evening. Thus we humans are programmed to fall asleep after dark.

We gradually tamed the dark, first by the use of fire, and later by electric lights. Now we have added another source of light stimulation, in the form of the various screens we stare into — often just before bedtime.

The National Sleep Foundation reports that 90 percent of Americans regularly use a computer, TV, cell phone or other electronic device in the hour before they go to bed.

The particular type of light produced by our technology screens is in the blue part of the light spectrum, the most active in controlling the timing of sleep and therefore suppressing the production of melatonin.

The light from our screens can delay our transition to sleep, even if we are engaged in some soothing activity online. But it’s more likely that our evening texting, TV shows or video games are stimulating in themselves, keeping the brain busy and wound up, and even causing adrenalin rushes instead of lullabies.

So, what to do about evening technology?

• Studies have indicated that an hour of “screen time” at night may be okay, but two or more hours can seriously disrupt the melatonin surge needed for sleep. If you do work into the evening, or use your computer for entertainment, consider switching to another activity in the last hour before sleep, at a minimum.

• If you must use a gadget with a screen at night, reduce your exposure to the bright light of the computer or cell phone by turning down the brightness in the late evening. There are downloadable programs that can help you adjust screen brightness based on the time of day.

• Keep technology out of children’s bedrooms (as well as your own.)

The American Academy of Pediatrics has taken a stance regarding technology for kids, advising that all electronic devices be removed from children’s and teen’s bedrooms, to ensure no late-night viewing or middle-of-the-night gaming or texting.

Their recommendations are concerned not only with sleep, but with rising obesity rates and childhood behavioral issues that may be tracked to too much screen time.

Dr. Joanna Cooper is a neurologist with Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation. On Tuesday, Aug. 26, Dr. Cooper will discuss the most current findings regarding the effect of electronic devices on our sleep. The free presentation will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Claremont Hotel, Monterey Room, located at 41 Tunnel Road in Berkeley.


 

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