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Sleeping is one of those things that we all say we’re going to do more of . . . and then never actually do. But it’s a more serious problem than you think. While we were making resolutions about drinking more water and adding more sleep to our schedules, we began to wonder what would happen if we didn’t follow through on said resolutions. We know what happens when you don’t drink water (it’s scary), but what about when you don’t sleep?
As it turns out, the effects can be crazy serious — and weight gain isn’t even the worst of it.
In the earlier stages, you’ll experience effects like:
When you consistently don’t get enough sleep, it takes a serious toll on your body — it can even lead to death.
Greater chance of coronary heart disease and/or stroke
Greater chance of developing diabetes
Higher risk of cancer
Worsened symptoms of depression
Worsened symptoms of anxiety
Shortened life span and increased risk of death
Symptoms of Fatigue
Before you notice the effects of skipping zzzs, you’ll likely notice these symptoms that may be indicators you have a serious problem.
Tiredness (seems obvious, but . . . )
Faintness or dizziness
Aches, chills, or muscle soreness
Loss of appetite or nausea
Unusual irritability, moodiness
Physical fatigue and muscle weakness
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Thanks to new technologyfrom disposable contacts to LASIKit has never been easier to guarantee perfect vision without having to wear clunky specs or reading glasses. (And even if frames are your thing, you can get trendy ones cheaper than ever through mail-order sites, like warbyparker.com.) The latest science can also keep unsightly crow's-feet and dark circles at bay.
But while it's great to look and see better, you want your eyes to feel better, too, whether it's by preventing itchy, watery allergy symptoms or staving off age-related eye diseases. So we went on a vision quest to round up the tests, treatments and warning signs you need to know about so you'll see clearly into your next decade and beyond.
Problem No. 1: Presbyopia
The lowdown. Presbyopiadifficulty making out close objects, like writing on a menu or digits on a phoneusually sets in by the time you're 40. That's because, as you age, the lens of your eye gradually starts to lose flexibility. (Farsightedness, or hyperopia, has a similar effect but is due to the shape of your eye and is usually something you're born with.) Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do to prevent it.
What it feels like. Your vision is blurred at a normal distance. You may also notice eye strain and headaches when you're doing close-up work, like sewing.
Rx. Although presbyopia is a natural condition, you should still see your eye doctor when you notice it to make sure you don't have a more serious condition, like glaucoma, says Bruce Rosenthal, MD, professor of ophthalmology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. If it is presbyopia, he'll likely recommend reading glasses. Already wear glasses or contacts? Relax: You won't have to switch to old-fashioned granny glasses, thanks to new bifocal contact lenses and glasses known as no-line bifocals, which use progressive, multifocus lenses and look like regular specs.
Problem No. 2: Allergic conjunctivitis
The lowdown. If you have seasonal allergies, you recognize this as the annoying redness and itchiness that afflict your eyes in response to pollen from grass, trees or ragweed. You might also get these symptoms if you're allergic to pet dander or mold. "When the allergen comes into contact with your eyes, it causes cells known as mast cells to release histamine and other substances," causing swelling and wateriness, explains Richard Weber, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
What it feels like. Itchy, red, watery eyes. You might also have other allergy symptoms, like sneezing.
Rx. An eye doctor or an allergist can prescribe prescription antihistamine eyedrops and, if needed, oral antihistamines (available either over-the-counter or by prescription). "Just avoid over-the-counter redness dropsthey work by constricting blood vessels in your eye, and you can develop a rebound effectwhen you stop using them, the vessels dilate again," Dr. Weber says.
Next Page: Dry eye syndrome
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Problem No. 3: Dry eye syndrome
The lowdown. This condition occurs when you don't naturally produce enough tears to lubricate your peepers. "It's very common among women in their late 30s and early 40s, probably because of hormonal changes such as a decrease in estrogen and testosterone production leading into perimenopause," says Robert Cykiert, MD, an ophthalmologist at NYU Langone Medical Center. Certain medslike antidepressants, antihistamines and decongestantscan also dry out your eyes, as can cold outdoor air.
What it feels like. A scratchy, gritty sensation. You may also have red eyes and blurred vision.
Rx. You can usually treat mild symptoms with an over-the-counter, preservative-free artificial tear solution, like Alcon's. If that doesn't work, see your eye doctor, who can prescribe eyedrops called Restasis. Wear contacts? Consider switching to daily disposables: One study found they improved dry eye by about 20 percent. For severe cases, your doc might recommend prescription eye inserts, which release a lubricant. You can also take an omega-3 supplement, which research suggests may ease symptoms, adds Jimmy Lee, MD, director of refractive surgery at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
Problem No. 4: Conjunctivitis
The lowdown. We're talking about pinkeyeinflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, a thin layer of tissue that lines the inside of your eyelid. The most common cause is a virus, usually an adenovirusthe same type that causes respiratory infections. There's also bacterial conjunctivitis, caused by staph bacteria from contaminated eye makeup or touching your eye with germy hands.
What it feels like. One or both eyes will be red, puffy, painful and swollen. The viral kind produces watery discharge, while a bacterial infection usually leads to thick, yellowish-green gunk.
Rx. See your eye doctor promptly, since these symptoms can also indicate a corneal infection. If it's viral, your eyes should revert back to normal within a week or two, though your doctor can prescribe steroid eyedrops for relief if you're in serious pain. Bacterial pinkeye usually clears up with a course of prescription antibiotic drops.
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A lot of the time, doctors say and do just the right thing and we leave happy. This story is about the other times—the ones when a highly-trained MD blurts out something so rude, cruel, clueless, or shocking you want to send them back to Bedside Manner 101. My personal favorite WTF moment was when I went to a very young gynecologist complaining of a urinary tract infection and she said, "I'd expect this more from my patients in their 20s who are still having lots of sex."
Okay, Dr. Gross-Stereotyper! Who doesn't, incidentally, know much about UTIs!
Then there was the moment, mid C-section with son #2, when I overheard my OB instruct his student, "You have to be very careful not to nick the bladder or bowel." Yes, please! Good thing I had an epidural in me or I would have leapt right off the table.
Awkward as they were, though, my exchanges were nothing compared with these tales of physicians with absolutely no filter:
RELATED: 8 Health Mistakes Nurses Warn Their Friends About
Jo, 48, Brooklyn, NY
"When I told my Ob/Gyn (who I had been going to for years) that was I thinking of becoming a single mother he said, 'You will never date again, no man would want you.' And he said that I should take the money I had saved and 'buy a condo in South Carolina.' I didn’t stay long enough in his office to ask, 'Why South Carolina!?'"
Marian, 26, San Diego, CA
"When he was working on a filling, my (former) dentist said, 'Oops.' I think there are certain people who must remove words like 'Oops' from their vocabularies: surgeons, OB/GYNs, bridge engineers. Dentists, who literally work inside your face, fall into that category."
Elisa, 49, Mamaroneck, NY
"August, 2000, I was newly pregnant after many, many months of trying. I started bleeding. The ob/gyn on call, who was not one of my regular doctors, said to me, 'Well, if you're going to lose it, you're going to lose it.' I was hysterical. An hour later, my gastroenterologist (I have ulcerative colitis) returned my call. He calmed me down, and sure enough the baby was fine."
Laura, 31, Astoria, NY
"When my primary care doctor was unavailable, I went to another doctor in her practice. I thought I was having a heart problem (thankfully, it turned out to be a pulled sternum and exercise-induced asthma). Instead of reassuring me that my scary symptoms weren't too serious, the doctor spent an hour telling me about how she could have been an Olympic-level runner, but then became a doctor, and that she went to Harvard. I stopped listening. The brags were the opposite of good bedside manner … more like good BRAGside manner."
RELATED: The Most Annoying Things People Do at the Gym and on the Trail (According to Us)
Nicole, 23, New York, NY
"When I was getting my first ever gyno exam at age 21, I winced at the pain of her inserting the speculum, and she scoffed and said, 'Oh stop, it’s no bigger than your boyfriend.'"
Jay, 45, Carrollton, VA
"A doctor told that my heart beats too fast. He said everyone's heart has a finite number of beats and that I was fine but I was going to use my beats up faster than most other people. I believe that was the day my anxiety needed to be medicated."
Lindsey, 23, Philadelphia, PA
"When I was about 13, I had a strange rash on my arm. My mom took me to the (male) pediatrician and he was unsure what it was. He asked if I was on my period, which I was and he replied, 'Oh, well I guess it could be Toxic Shock Syndrome, but what do I know? I’m not a girl!' I couldn't believe he could be so sexist and also trivialize a serious health problem.”
Melissa, 45, San Francisco, CA
"Mid root canal, I heard the oral surgeon curse loudly enough for me to take my earbuds out, just in time to hear her say, 'I can't believe I just did that! Well, we can fix it, I guess."
RELATED: 8 Things ER Docs Refuse to Have in Their Homes
Sara, 51, New York, NY
"I have deformed, arthritic hips and went to a very famous holistically-oriented doctor to see if there was anything I could do instead of surgery. He swiftly handed me a script for 90 Oxycontin with refills. 'I don't think I need a drug addiction on top of my other problems,' I told him. 'Oh you won't get addicted,' he pshawed. This was years ago, but I don't think he ever read a newspaper."
Cathy, 39, Seattle, WA
"I was undergoing fertility treatments and feeling really hormonal from the drugs. When I told my doctor, he said, 'I think you need to get out of the house more. Why don't you get a job at the mall?' As if working at Cinnabon was the answer."
Sue, 49, Lenox, MA
"After a doctor started to perform a minor surgical procedure on me in her office, she said—after SHE was not able to control my bleeding—'You're making a mess!' And she finished with 'You might need to stay and clean up your mess.' I later found that she was let go from her previous practice for poor bedside manner."
Maureen, 37, Locust Valley, NY
"My tooth cracked. The dentist asked what caused it. I said, 'Unfortunately, I enjoy 8 blow pops a day." And he said, 'Good practice, eh?' What a creep!"
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You’ve worn glasses or contacts forever, and frankly, you’re tired of the hassle. You want to see clearly from the second you wake up in the morning till the moment you drift to sleep at night. But if you're considering Lasik, you probably have some questions like, "Will I be laid up for days?" "Will it hurt?" And: "What are the odds it'll work?" Before you go under the laser, here are a few things you should know.
How is Lasik done?
After your eye surgeon applies numbing drops, she makes an incision in the cornea and lifts a thin flap. Then a laser reshapes the corneal tissue underneath, and the flap is replaced. "The patient can see very quickly," says Wilmington, Delaware-based ophthalmologist Robert Abel, Jr., MD, author of The Eye Care Revolution. "You get off the table and think, 'Wow.'"
Who can get the procedure?
Lasik is used to treat the common vision problems nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. To find out if you’re a good candidate for the surgery, see an ophthalmologist for an eye exam. “You need to make sure your cornea is uniform, you don’t have severe dry eye or other eye conditions, and your prescription is stable,” explains Dr. Abel.
Lasik can also be used to fix presbyopia—that maddening effect of aging that makes it harder to focus close-up—but you need to have one eye corrected for near vision and the other for distance. This technique, called Monovision Lasik, affects depth perception and sharpness, so you may still require glasses for visually demanding activities like driving at night, or reading fine print for long periods of time. (The FDA recommends doing a trial with monovision contact lenses first.)
Also know that as you get older, your vision may continue to get worse, so you may need another Lasik procedure or glasses down the road, says Dr. Abel.
What's the success rate?
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 90% of Lasik patients end up with vision somewhere between 20/20 and 20/40.
There's chance you will still need to use corrective lenses sometimes: A 2013 survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that more than 50% of people who get Lasik or other laser vision-correction surgery wear glasses or contacts at least occasionally. Still, 80% of the survey respondents reported feeling "completely" or "very satisfied" with their procedure.
According to the FDA, results are usually not as good in people who have very large refractive errors. Make sure you discuss your expectations with your ophthalmologist to see if they're realistic.
RELATED: The Surprising Effect of Pregnancy and Nursing on Eyesight
What are the risks?
While the thought of a laser boring into your eye may seem, well, terrifying, the procedure is overwhelmingly safe, Dr. Abel says, noting that the risk of problems is about 1%.
That said, it's important to weigh the risks against the benefits, as the potential complications can be debilitating. The FDA has a list on its site, including severe dry eye syndrome, and a loss in vision that cannot be fixed with eyewear or surgery. Some patients develop symptoms like glare, halos, and double vision that make it especially tough to see at night or in fog.
There are also temporary effects to consider. According to the Consumer Reports survey, many respondents experienced side effects—including dry eyes, halos, and blurry vision—that lasted six months or longer.
One thing you don’t have to worry about: Flinching or blinking during the procedure. A device will keep your eyelids open, while a suction ring prevents your eye from moving.
How long will I be out of commission?
You will need someone to drive you home after the procedure, but you can go back to work the very next day.
How much will this cost?
According to Lasik.com, the cost can range from $299 per eye to more than $4,000 per eye. Geography, technology, and the surgical experience of the doctor all factor into the price. Insurance companies don't typically cover the surgery, but you can use tax-free funds from your FSA, HSA, or HRA account to pay for it.
RELATED: 5 Foods for Healthy Eyes
Is Lasik the only option?
Epi-LASIK is a similar laser procedure, but it's done without making a surgical incision, says Dr. Abel. “The risk of complications is even lower than traditional Lasik, and that’s why a lot of people are opting to get Epi-Lasik." The catch: The recovery takes longer. You’ll need to wait 4 days before you can drive, he says, and 11 days to see really well.
How can I find a good doctor?
With nearly every daily deal site offering discounts on laser eye surgery, it can be tempting to choose the cheapest doc. But it’s important you see someone with a wealth of experience, says Dr. Abel. After all, these are your eyes we’re talking about. Dr. Abel suggests calling your local university hospital and asking an administrative assistant or nurse where they refer their Lasik patients. “You want to go to someone with good follow-up care and an extended warranty or guarantee of at least three years in case you need a correction later in life,” says Dr. Abel.
Next time you plop down at your desk, consider the ways your office space—where you’ll be spending the next eight-plus hours—might impact your body. “When you think about it, it’s frightening how little we know about how our work environments affect us,” says Carolyn Rickard-Brideau, an architect in Arlington, Va., who studies the link between design and human health. Everything from energy-efficient lighting to open floor plans has the potential to mess with your well-being. Here, leading experts highlight six dangers of the 21st-century office job and pitch their best tips to help you work smarter and feel better at the end of a (very) long day.
The hazard: Fluorescent lighting
As incandescent bulbs go the way of the fax machine, CFLs are becoming an office fixture. Although they’re certainly greener, they can be meaner when it comes to your skin: A study done at the State University of New York at Stony Brook found that tiny cracks in CFL coatings allow the bulbs to emit UVC rays, which can damage epidermal cells at close range. In other words, overhead fluorescents are A-OK, but you should rethink your desk lamp. “Sitting within 2 feet of this type of bulb for lengthy periods could be harmful,” says lead study author Miriam Rafailovich, PhD.
Work well: Brighten your space with an LED light, which poses no health risk, says Rafailovich.
The hazard: Working nonstop
While budget-cutting corporations squeeze more and more from their employees, it’s not surprising that nine-to-fivers (read: nine-to-niners) are more stressed than ever. But women seem to have it worse. Twenty percent of us report that our stress level is above an 8 (out of 10), compared with 16 percent of men, according to the American Psychological Association. And 43 percent of women say their stress is on the rise. That kind of chronic stress raises heart rate, blood pressure and levels of inflammation—all risk factors for heart disease, says Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, director of women’s heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Work well: Hit the water cooler. Walk a lap around the floor. Pee often! Worker bees who take short, frequent breaks experience less emotional exhaustion, more job satisfaction and fewer aches and pains than those who don’t, according to 2015 research from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Can’t find time to press pause? Suggest moving one of your meetings outdoors. Studies have shown that simply being in nature lowers blood pressure and levels of fight-or-flight hormones.
The hazard: Lack of privacy
Silicon Valley-inspired open floor plans are meant to encourage collaboration. But they also tend to generate a steady hum of distractions, as chatter, rings and pings travel freely through the airy space. One 2014 study found that workers lost up to 86 minutes of productivity a day due to various interruptions. “Every time you’re disturbed, you must not only let go of the distraction but then reconnect with the original subject of attention,” explains John Weaver, PsyD, a psychologist in Waukesha, Wis. This process just adds extra stress to your day.
Work well: See if you can expense some noise-cancelling headphones. Bose’s QuietComfort 20 model ($300; amazon.com) has an in-ear design, so you can drown out the din without messing up your perfectly tousled bun. No dice? Take a breather in a quiet spot with a pretty view whenever you hit a wall, suggests Rickard-Brideau. “Thanks to a phenomenon called unconscious processing, your brain will keep working on a problem even though it’s no longer in front of you,” she explains. Expect a breakthrough on the way back to your chair.
The hazard: Beaucoup screen time
On average, we spend more than half our waking hours staring at electronic devices—a habit that can affect more than your neck. A 2014 Japanese study found that office workers who were parked in front of a computer for most of the day experienced a reduction in their tear fluid, a typical symptom of dry eye. (Ouch.) This is partly because we tend to blink less when we gaze at a screen. Poorly lubricated peepers can lead to strain, irritation and blurry vision.
Work well: Optometrists recommend giving your eyes regular breaks—which allows them to recoup that natural lubrication—by following the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, gaze at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Next Page: The hazard: Slouching
The hazard: Slouching
American workers maintain good posture for a little more than a third of their workday, studies show. The rest of the time, let’s just say we’re not sitting pretty. “Aside from back pain, slouching causes a slowdown in digestion and circulation,” says Brad Thomas, MD, founding partner of Beach Cities Orthopedics in Manhattan Beach, Calif. It can even affect your mental state. A study in Health Psychology found that people who slumped while working under pressure had more negative thoughts than those who sat up straight.
Work well: Check yourself. Is your butt in the back of your chair? Feet on the floor? (A lumbar support or foot stool might help.) Can you type without changing your posture? Good. If you’ll need reminders to stay this way, try the Lumo Lift ($80, amazon.com), a personal tracker that vibrates every time you hunch.
The hazard: The kitchen
When you grab a juice from the pantry, you may pick up more than kale-beet. Researchers at the University of Arizona found that an employee sick with a cold, the flu or a stomach bug will likely contaminate the fridge door, microwave and coffeepot within two hours!
Work well: Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly kill a lot of bacteria, but they aren’t as effective as good old soap and water when it comes to knocking out viruses. And when you wash your hands, don’t rush it: A thorough job—including rubbing hands together vigorously to jar all those germs loose—should take a solid 20 to 30 seconds.
Make the most your four-week Summer Body Warrior Challenge with Sheena-Lauren’s top tips for fitness success.
Train first thing in the morning
“Wake up and work out before your brain figures out what is going on,” says Sheena-Lauren. You will be less likely to skip a workout than if you leave it to the end of a day. “There is less chance for ‘things’ to pop up during the day, and often we have less energy at the end of a day, so we tend to dread a workout we could have conquered in the morning.” There are other advantages to getting it done first thing. Studies show that exercising can help to boost metabolism, which can encourage efficient calorie burning throughout the day. It can also promote endorphins in the brain and elevate mood. Getting your workout done early can also give you a sense of accomplishment, motivating you to make healthy food choices for the rest of the day.
Not punitively. Not minimally. Well. Which means honouring your body’s needs for fuel (you can’t expect it to perform well when you’re winging your nutrition). Contrary to common imaginings, eating enough to fuel intensity and recovery is key to burning fat and sculpting muscle – warrior style. While your taste buds matter, for the next four weeks, Sheena-Lauren suggests viewing your food as a need and fuel rather than a want. “When it comes to building lean muscle and tone and stripping fat, it’s important that you have the energy to undertake the intensity of cardio required and are giving your body adequate amounts of nutrients and protein to build muscle tone. “Don’t let all that hard work in the gym building tone and shape be undone because of poor nutrition choices,” Sheena-Lauren says. Prepare for success by shopping on Sunday and preparing Sheena-Lauren’s fit food recipes (there are more in her e-book, Eat like a Warrior Queen at sheenalauren.com).
Make it a thing
When you’re the only one who knows about what you intend to do, it’s easy to pike when the going gets tired, busy, rainy or hungry for a chocolate éclair. By recruiting one or more friends for the challenge, you’ll not only be less likely to back out of a workout, you’ll experience the challenge in a way you wouldn’t if you did it solo. (Did we mention that laughter is an essential part of the challenge?) If you don’t want to recruit a buddy, make sure you keep close ties with the WH&F #RawFitspo community on Instagram and Facebook. They will want to see your training pics. “Studies indicate that joining forces can increase fitness success dramatically,” Sheena-Lauren says. “Just remember to choose your workout buddy wisely. Ensure they share similar goals, are at a similar fitness level and are just as committed.”
Active recovery Sundays are not a nod to laziness. Training too much or failing to take time out for simple pleasures is as counterproductive as under-training. We are asking a lot of our bodies throughout this four-week challenge, so it’s important for body and mind to take a day to unwind. To maximise the benefits of active recovery Sundays, make sure you don’t let them slip by in a blur of chores. Consider it a KPI to do something good for your body – whether it’s a massage, a yoga class, a swim or beach walk.