#126 Do Smartphones Cause Heart Attacks?

October 12th, 2015 by

Do Smartphones Cause Heart Attacks?

“What are you working on?” Jane asked.

“I’m just checking my email really quickly,” I replied.

Had I been at my office this would have been OK.  Sadly, we were out on our weekly date.

A recent study shows that 70% of people in a romantic relationship have been snubbed by their partner’s phone.  Related studies show that 60% of college students have a smartphone addiction and these students can spend up to 10 hours a day on their phones!

In this article, I share the latest scientific data on the cardiac risks of phone snubbing, or “phubbing,” as well as heavy phone use in general.

What is Phubbing?

Phone snubbing, or “phubbing,” is a new word describing a situation where someone looks at their phone rather than the person they are with.  Phubbing could range from taking a cell phone call while you are talking to another person to checking email, text messages, or Facebook posts.

The Dangers of Phubbing

To better understand the risks of phubbing in our modern society, researchers James A. Roberts and Meredith E. David from Baylor University recently published a study on the impact of phubbing on 308 adults.  As you might have suspected, given the significance of this problem, this study received worldwide media attention.

Here is what they found in this study.  Phubbers and victims of phubbing are more likely to suffer from the following:

1. Strained relationships

2. Increased anxiety

3. Decreased life satisfaction

4. Increased risk of depression

Of course, this study does not prove that phubbing causes relationship breakups, anxiety, unhappy lives, and depression.  It is equally possible that the reason why these people “phubbed” is that they were already suffering from these problems.  Regardless, common sense tells us that phubbing can’t be healthy.

Are You a Phubber?

Are you guilty of phubbing?  Here are six of the phubber criteria as established by James A. Roberts and Meredith E. David in this study.

1. During a typical mealtime that my partner and I spend together, my partner pulls out and checks his/her cell phone.

2. My partner places his or her cell phone where they can see it when we are together.

3. When my partner’s cell phone rings or beeps, he/she pulls it out even if we are in the middle of a conversation.

4. My partner glances at his/her cell phone when talking to me.

5. During leisure time that my partner and I are able to spend together, my partner uses his/her cell phone.

6. If there is a lull in our conversation, my partner will check his or her cell phone.

What Are the Dangers of Cell Phone Use?

While we all have heard about the possible cell phone brain cancer link and the dangers of texting while driving, could there be other equally dangerous risks?

While not as dangerous as a possible brain tumor or an automobile accident, heavy smartphone users now often suffer from “text neck.”  As the head can put 60 pounds of pressure on the neck when tilted down to text it is not hard to imagine why smartphones are quickly becoming one of the leading causes of chronic neck pain.  Not only does “text neck” cause chronic neck pain but it can also cause you to be permanently hunched over.

Perhaps much more serious than “text neck” is that studies show that heavy smartphone use increases stress levels.  Even more frightening is that depression may follow those people who can’t ever seem to put their phones down.

Do Smartphones Cause Heart Attacks?

As we have learned from this “phubbing” study, broken relationships, stress, and depression often follow phubbers and their victims.  According to medical studies, what are the cardiac dangers of bad relationships, anxiety, and depression?

1. Broken relationships increase the risk of heart attacks by up to 45%.

2. Stressed out people are more than twice as likely to suffer a heart attack.

3. Depressed people are up to 6 times more likely to die from heart problems.

6 Ways to Beat Your Cell Phone Addiction

As smartphones are part of modern life, what can you do to protect your heart?  Here is how I advise my patients.

1. Download the Breakfree App

Are you addicted to your smartphone?  Awareness and tracking are critical steps in identifying and breaking any harmful habit.

To help me with my own smartphone addiction, I have recently downloaded the free iPhone and Android app, Breakfree.  I like this app because it will give you your own honest smartphone addiction score.

In addition, Breakfree will tell you how many times you unlock your phone each day, how much time you spend on your phone, and it will tell you exactly how you are spending all of your phone time.  For those of you with kids, this app can monitor their phone use and determine when they can and cannot access the internet.

2. Unplug

As scary as it might seem, you need to periodically unplug from your phone for a healthy heart.  This “unplugging” helps you to connect with those things in life that really matter most.

At minimum, I recommend unplugging for the first 30 minutes after you wake up and for the last 30 minutes of your day before bed.  You just don’t need the stress that comes from checking your phone first thing in the morning or the sleep loss from checking your phone just before bed.

Some of my patients have shared with me that they actually turn their smartphone off on Sundays or when out with friends.  Personally, when I am not on call, and everyone has made it back home safely at night, I have started switching my iPhone to the airplane mode to help me resist cell phone distractions.

3. Turn Off Notifications

The constant buzzing or chirping of a smartphone will drive anyone but the most focussed to check their phones.  Knowing my own personal weaknesses, I have turned off every notification except the ringing of an incoming call.  To keep a ringing phone from driving me crazy, I have only given out my cell phone number to my closest friends, family members, and my office staff.

4. Delete Non-Critical Apps

To minimize temptations, do you really need the Facebook app on your smartphone?  Are there other apps you can delete to save you from your phone?

5. No Devices at Meals

Mealtimes are times to eat mindfully and connect with other people.  Outside of the dangers of “phubbing” someone during mealtime, screen time at mealtime can quadruple your risk of obesity.

We have had to establish rules in our home as children, as well as adults, will naturally gravitate to electronic devices during mealtime if left unchecked.  Commit now to device free mealtimes with your family and friends.

6. Vote Now to Stop Phubbing

There is now an organization dedicated to the mission of eradicating phubbing.  While this might be a bit much for some, if you are motivated to end phubbing, like me, you can visit their website and vote to stop phubbing.

Are you guilty of phubbing?  Have you been phubbed before?  Please leave your comments below for our community to read.

#114 5 Ways Your Smartphone Can Tell If You’re Depressed

July 27th, 2015 by

5 Ways Your Smartphone Can Tell If You’re Depressed

One in 14 Americans will suffer from depression this year.  Your friends are worried you might be the one.  Can your smartphone diagnose you with depression?

In this article, I share 5 scientifically proven ways your smartphone can tell if you’re depressed.  I also share specific things you can do now to minimize your risk of every suffering from this devastating condition.

Depression Causes Heart AttacksHeart Attack

While most people are aware of the link between depression and suicide, few people are aware that depression causes heart attacks.  For example, in a recently published study of 34,726 American adults from Columbia University Medical School in New York City, the combination of stress plus depression increased the risk of premature death or a heart attack by 48%.

How Can Your Smartphone Tell If You Are Depressed?

You may be wondering how exactly your smartphone can tell if you are depressed.  Rather than creating yet another app that asks you questions to see if you are depressed based on your answers, researchers at Northwestern School of Medicine in Chicago sought to answer this question with more objective data generated by smartphone sensors and GPS data.

In this study, researchers enrolled 40 adults.  With an app to collect smartphone data, Northwestern University researchers were able to diagnose depression with 87% accuracy.

This objective smartphone diagnosis of depression, based on sensors and GPS tracking data, was then compared to the traditional way of diagnosing depression.  Based on the results of this study, here are the 5 ways your smartphone can tell if you’re depressed.

5 Ways Your Smartphone Can Tell If You’re Depressed

1. Your Circadian Rhythm Is Off

Your circadian rhythm is your body’s internal 24 hour clock which is set based on the sun.  Even plants and animals have this same 24 hour internal clock.

In people without a stable circadian rhythm, the risk of cancer and heart attacks are both significantly increased.  Our bodies need to be in rhythm with the sun for optimal health.

In depression, people tend to live lives out of sync with the natural circadian rhythm.  In other words, as people are entering into a bout of depression they may go to sleep much earlier or later than previously or they may have days when they go into work late.

In my case, my iPhone knows I like to go to bed at 10 pm and arise at 5 am.  I leave for the hospital somewhere between 6:30 and 7:30 am and that we keep our bedroom very dark at night and I try to keep my daytime light exposure as high as possible.  My iPhone could also tell you that I get on my treadmill desk or bike desk first thing in the morning and, whenever possible, I try to carve out time to exercise hard outside later in the day.

Through motion detectors, your smartphone can tell if your circadian rhythm is off.  To keep yourself as mentally healthy as possible, try to go to bed and arise each morning at the same time, keep it dark at night and light during the day, and have a set time to eat, work, and exercise.

2. You Stop Going to Your Favorite Places

Through GPS technology, your smartphone can quickly learn where your favorite places are.  For me, my smartphone could learn very quickly that I tend to be happiest when I regularly visit the ski resorts near my home to either ski in the winter or mountain bike in the summer.

People suffering from depression tend to lose interest in their favorite activities.  They tend to stop going to their favorite places.

Where are your favorite places?  Do you have a favorite movie theater, restaurant, or workout location?  Make sure you never withdraw from your favorite places or activities.

3. You Suddenly Start Spending More Time at Home

Your smartphone can also tell if you suddenly start spending more time at home.  People suffering from depression tend to stop going out and isolate themselves at home.

Sure, there could be a change in your life like an injury or a new baby.  However, significant events like these, can also be a risk factor for depression.

In my situation, my smartphone knows that if I am at home I am rarely sitting.  I am either on my treadmill desk or engaged in some sort of activity with my family.

Once again, to stay mentally healthy, don’t suddenly start spending all of your time locked within the walls of your home.  Make sure you are connecting with other people and with nature whenever possible.

4. You Spend More Time on Your Phone

Studies have shown that depressed people tend to spend more time on social media or their smartphones.  Not surprisingly, your smartphone can track how much time you are on it each day.

For example, in this study, depressed people spent an average of 68 minutes playing on their phones while non-depressed people spent a mere 17 minutes on their phones.  Could it be that the smartphone is a distraction from the world for depressed people?

To be honest, I am guilty of spending too much time on my smartphone.  I’m not sure if I am at the 68 minute mark or not but I am certainly spending more than 17 minutes on my iPhone each day.  I have made it a personal goal to only check social media and emails once or twice, at most, each day.

Many of my patients have shared with me that the simple act of unplugging from technology on Sundays helps them to avoid feeling depressed and keep their hearts beating right.  If you are spending too much time on your smartphone you are missing out on your life.

5. You Frequently Reach for Your Phone

As with number 4 above, depressed people in this study were much more likely to reach for their smartphones.  Perhaps these people were worried they might miss the latest Facebook post, that critical text message, or an important work email.

I am guilty of this as well.  Once again, for your health, don’t reach for your phone unless it is absolutely critical.

Can I Get the App?

I would love to have an app, like the one used in this study, running on my iPhone in the background. Then, if my behaviors suddenly start to change, it could ask me if I was OK and whether or not I needed help.

Even though all of the data used in this study is already available from your smartphone, an app like this to gather and analyze these data does not currently exist in the iTunes store.  The only apps currently available rely on self-reported data from quizes or questionnaires to assist in determining if you are depressed or not based on your answers.

An app that actually tracks your behaviors could be very helpful as it provides objective observational data that could prompt you to make an appointment with your healthcare provider to prevent a major bout of depression.  Perhaps if you know a software developer you could encourage them to create such an app.

Final Thoughts

Depression is a serious condition.  Depression can ruin your health, your family, and your life.  If you suffer from any of the symptoms discussed in this article, let your physician know so that you can receive the help you need.

Remember, this was a small study.  The findings of this study cannot be used to diagnose true depression until they are validated in a large group of patients.  Regardless, I found the findings of this study very fascinating and it may open the door to new apps to identify people who need help.

Next Steps

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#027 Do You Have Any of These 12 Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms?

August 11th, 2014 by

Do you have any of these 12 magnesium deficiency symptoms?

You probably have no idea that you are currently suffering from magnesium deficiency. Indeed, studies show that up to 89% of Americans are magnesium deficient.  Read on to see if you have any of these 12 magnesium deficiency symptoms.

Jill’s Experience

Jill was a 45-year-old woman suffering from a heart condition known as atrial fibrillation. It made no sense why someone so young should develop this heart condition as she didn’t have any of the usual atrial fibrillation risk factors.

The only tip-off as to the cause of her atrial fibrillation was that she was taking Prilosec for acid reflux, Lasix occasionally for leg swelling, and she was eating the “Standard American Diet.” Even though her magnesium levels came back normal on her blood test, I suspected a magnesium deficiency as the cause of her heart problem.

Interestingly, once I convinced her to replace all added sugars and processed foods with real foods which included a massive salad every day, she immediately lost 20 pounds without even trying. In no time at all her acid reflux was gone and she was off the Prilosec. Also, with no added sugars or processed foods, her legs no longer swelled so there was no further need of diuretics.

Best of all, she felt better than she had ever felt and her atrial fibrillation went away. As she made many lifestyle changes, it was impossible to know what exactly drove her atrial fibrillation into remission.

However, in my mind, I’m sure replacing her magnesium stores played a role. Continue reading to figure out how she boosted her magnesium stores.

Can you test for magnesium deficiency?

While you can test for magnesium deficiency, you probably don’t want the test your doctor orders. The reason for this is because the standard magnesium test only measures the magnesium in your blood.

As 99% of your magnesium is not freely floating around in your blood but rather is inside of your cells and bones, you need a better test for magnesium deficiency. Of the various ways to test for magnesium deficiency, probably the best is the RBC magnesium test. The RBC magnesium test measures the amount of magnesium inside of your red blood cells.

Who is at risk for magnesium deficiency?

Many things contribute to magnesium deficiency. For example, if you are under a lot of stress, you likely are not absorbing much magnesium from your food.  Those who love drinking filtered or bottled water also aren’t getting much magnesium. And processed foods are notorious for being completely absent of magnesium.

Other conditions contributing to magnesium deficiency include being overweight, diabetic, or over age 60. Likewise, many prescription medications like diuretics or acid-blocking medications are also keeping your magnesium levels dangerously low.

Do you have any of these 12 magnesium deficiency symptoms?

1. Weight Gain/Diabetes

When you don’t get enough magnesium in your food and water, it can cause glucose and insulin levels to rise.  When insulin levels are high, you may suffer from food cravings.  Unfortunately, these food cravings are generally for sugar or processed carbohydrates which lead to further weight gain.

2. Fatigue and Muscle Weakness

Magnesium is a critical component of energy production in the body.  In fact, the body’s energy molecule, ATP, is created through magnesium dependent chemical reactions.

If you are tired all the time, you are probably magnesium deficient.  Likewise, if your muscles are weak, you may also not be getting enough magnesium.

3. Anxiety

People under high levels of mental or physical stress, poorly absorb magnesium from the gastrointestinal tract. Contributing to a downward spiral, magnesium deficiency is a significant cause of anxiety.  Fortunately, studies show that restoring the magnesium may help in the treatment of anxiety.

4. Insomnia

Having enough magnesium balances out your stress hormones.  Magnesium also helps the body maintain sufficient melatonin and other sleep hormones.  Indeed, magnesium supplementation has been shown to help with sleep.

5. Depression

Magnesium deficiency and depression go hand in hand.  Low magnesium stores lead to depression and people suffering from depression are more likely to eat a diet low in magnesium.

6. Dental Cavities or Osteoporosis

Dental cavities and osteoporosis are two more signs of magnesium deficiency.  Magnesium affects vitamin D metabolism and osteocalcin which play a vital role in bone turnover and formation.

Ironically, if you are taking calcium supplements for osteoporosis, you may be making matters worse. Calcium supplementation can throw off your calcium/magnesium balance.

7. Constipation

If you suffer from constipation you probably are magnesium deficient.  Magnesium in any form is an excellent laxative.

8. Muscle Cramps or Migraine Headaches

Do you suffer from leg cramps, eye twitches, or muscle spasms?  Do you get frequent headaches? These may all be magnesium deficiency symptoms.

9. Inflammation, Arthritis, or Autoimmune Diseases

If you suffer from chronic inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis or autoimmune diseases, you may be magnesium deficient.  Studies have linked magnesium deficiency to arthritis and elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) blood tests.

10. Palpitations, Heart Attacks, Heart Failure, or Cardiac Arrest

Most forms of heart disease are linked to magnesium deficiency.  This mineral is critical to optimal cardiac function.

11. Thyroid Problems

Thyroid problems are widespread in the U.S.  Research suggests that many thyroid issues may be due to magnesium deficiency.

12. Cancer

Cancer may be a wake-up call that magnesium levels are low. Magnesium is a critical nutrient for many DNA repair mechanisms.   As new cancer cells are created every day in your body, you need your DNA repair mechanism functioning optimally.

Magnesium in Our Water

Our ancestors used to get large amounts of magnesium just from their drinking water.  Mountain spring water is naturally high in magnesium.  Unfortunately, many municipalities remove magnesium as part of their water treatment process.

If you want to see how much magnesium is in your drinking water, click here.  In general, the “harder” your water, the more magnesium you are getting.

Interestingly, drinking hard water may lower your risk of heart disease.  If you happen to live in a city with naturally hard water, you can get up to 30% of the magnesium you need each day from water.

Unfortunately, water softeners, water filters, reverse osmosis devices, and bottled water are generally all depleted of magnesium.  If you drink any of these magnesium depleted water types, you have to get 100% of your magnesium from food.

Magnesium in Our Food

Once upon a time, our soil contained much more magnesium.  Unfortunately, modern agriculture has stripped this essential mineral from the ground.  Processed foods are even worse when it comes to magnesium content.

Fortunately, organically grown produce has been shown to have up to 29% more magnesium.  To get enough magnesium in your diet, make sure you eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, especially spinach, nuts, seeds, and legumes every day.  To see a breakdown of which foods contain the most magnesium click here.

Can you get too much magnesium?

In general, it is very tough to get too much magnesium from your food and water unless you have kidney disease.  Certainly, it is possible to get too much magnesium if you are taking supplements.

How much magnesium do you need each day?

The recommended daily amount of magnesium varies depending on your gender and age. Assuming there are no problems with magnesium absorption, you need about 400 mg of magnesium each day. If you can get at least 400 mg of magnesium daily from your water and food, you can start to enjoy the health benefits of magnesium.

Magnesium in China’s Longevity Village

As you know, we have been studying the residents of China’s Longevity Village for many years.  We have found that these people do not suffer from magnesium deficiency symptoms.

The mountain spring water they drink is extremely hard and packed full of essential minerals.  Researchers suggest that these people get up to 50% of their magnesium just from the water.

Also, modern agriculture has yet to put a stake in the ground in this rural area of China.  Thus, the soil is extremely high in magnesium and other minerals.

Their diet, which is very high in vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans, only further augments the magnesium they are getting every day.  We suspect that the magnesium in their food and water may be a major reason why heart disease is very uncommon, and people live to old ages free of chronic medical conditions.

To learn more about why China’s Longevity Village has the highest known concentration of centenarians in the world, please be sure to pick up a copy of our new book, The Longevity Plan.

How can you correct magnesium deficiency?

Let me give you five simple steps to correct magnesium deficiency.

1. Drink hard or mineral water.

2. Eat a heaping salad with spinach, nuts, seeds, and legumes daily. 

3. Embrace the stress in your life.

4. Talk with your doctor about magnesium supplements.

5. Talk with your doctor about medications that may be contributing to your magnesium deficiency like diuretics, acid reducing medications, or calcium supplements.

Practical Tips

As 89% of Americans are magnesium deficient, there is a high likelihood that you may be one of them. Fortunately, magnesium deficiency is easy to correct.

I know I used to be one of these people. Before my health transformation, I required Prilosec daily for acid reflux, ate the Standard American Diet, and was always stressed. These three things alone probably put me also into a state of magnesium deficiency.

Now, in addition to eating a diet very high in magnesium, I have found that taking a magnesium supplement before bed helps me to sleep. Indeed, medical studies show that magnesium supplementation is an effective treatment for insomnia.

If you suspect you may have a magnesium deficiency as well, correct anything that can be fixed to boost your magnesium stores. Also, speak with your physician about whether a magnesium supplement might be right for you.

If you enjoyed this article, please be sure to subscribe to our free weekly newsletter and podcast. Also, to learn the secret to fantastic health at any age, please be sure to read our new book, The Longevity Plan.