Sunday, 28 September 2008

Top 10 IT Health Risks And How To Combat Them (1/2)

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Everybody seems to understand that labourers (involved in physical work) can have serious back and neck problems from their strenuous work. But do you know that even the so-called sophisticated IT workforce can also face serious health risks??? Based on anecdotal evidence gathered in various workplaces, here are the top ailments people in a typical IT office may face…

  1. When the only body part you move in your job is your “mouse finger”, you MUST take fitness into your own hands. Do you have to train for a marathon to lose some weight? Not at all, according to Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic. He found that the time spent sitting was more likely to correlate with weight gain than the lack of vigorous exercise. You can keep slim, according to Levine, by walking slowly (about 0.7 mph) two to three hours a day. Although few of us can stroll around the neighborhood that long, several companies have developed workstations with treadmills attached so you can pseudo-walk while you check your e-mail or debug code.

  2. A much more serious hazard of office work is not just weight gain but a more dangerous “seated immobility thromboembolism” (SIT). This problem occurs when blood-clots form in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) or lungs (pulmonary embolism) in people who spend a long time sitting. People may develop these clots while on a long trip, if they don't get out of the car or stroll around in the plane's cabin a bit. CNET noted the risk of deep vein thrombosis increasing back in this 2003 article. More recently, results of a New Zealand study suggested that a sedentary job may double the risk of developing clots in the legs or, even more dangerous, clots in the lungs.

  3. From the flicker of fluorescent lights to the hunched-up debugging posture, the conditions of your cubicle conspire to cause headaches. Taking medicines like Tylenol or Ibuprofen several times a week can backfire by making your pain more tenacious. If you get in a pattern of frequent headaches, DON’T IGNORE IT. Instead, see a doctor as soon as possible to get out of the rut. You may have tension headaches, which can be treated with massage or stretches to help relax your muscles. Migraine is another possibility. Even if you don't have the visual disturbances (auras) that are the hallmarks of a "classic" migraine, you may have a common migraine. The good news is that there are many medications you can try to treat and prevent migraines. Migraines can affect your mood, your threshold of pain, and perhaps even your risk of stroke!

  4. Do you nod off frequently at your desk and perhaps even have brief dreams? These episodes, called microsleeps, may indicate that you're sleep deprived. It's natural for the human body to crave for a short siesta after lunch, but excessive daytime sleepiness needs to be treated. Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night, so simply going to bed earlier may be all you need to overcome this. If you're in the bed long enough but are still tired, consider your environment (a snoring spouse, a hot or cold room, etc.). Crying babies and mobiles can jar you out of sleep and seriously disrupt normal sleep cycles. Sleep apnea is a fairly common problem but sounds quite scary: People with the disorder briefly stop breathing, often hundreds of times a night, which disrupts normal sleep phases. Physical abnormalities that cause excessive snoring can also lead to poor sleep. So check with your doctor, who may refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist or sleep clinic to sort out your sleep problems.

  5. Although your hands and wrists may be sore from intensive typing, there's not a whole lot of evidence to link keyboard use to carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). A 2007 study of men who worked at video display terminals found an association of CTS with high body mass index (BMI) and job seniority - but not with specific tasks related to computer usage. Still, many conditions other than CTS can make your hands and wrists hurt, so it’s wise to check with your doctor to try to get some relief. Severe CTS is usually treated with surgery, but many other conditions that cause hand pain don't require such drastic treatment. Tendonitis, for example, is a fairly common cause of hand pain that may be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen or naproxen) and splinting.

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