it's like smoking 15 cigarettes

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Welcome to the positive corner of the internet. Here’s a daily digest designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes. If you were forwarded this message, you can get the free daily email here.

Today’s Health Upgrade

  • Deep Dive: Is blue light dangerous?

  • Reset your gut health

  • The behavior that equals 15 cigarettes

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Deep Dive: Is Blue Light Dangerous?

The digital world has created one inevitability: we all spend a lot of time in front of screens. While you could argue the dangers and downsides to your attention span, many of you have asked if blue light is bad for your health.

Despite its reputation, research suggests blue light is a necessity and can be a good thing. The best source of blue light is the sun, which influences your circadian rhythm and determines your sleep-wake cycle. If you read yesterday’s email, your circadian rhythm triggers how much melatonin you produce, which helps you sleep. If you disrupt your circadian rhythm, it can make you tired during the day, reduce your energy, and make it difficult to fall asleep at night.

The big issue is too much blue light at night, which can make it harder to fall or stay asleep. The simple solution is to stop looking at screens at least an hour before bed. If that proves too tough, you can use blue light-blocking lenses — but don’t wear them too often.

Wearing blue light-blocking lenses throughout the day can have a negative impact on your circadian rhythm (it’s called entrainment) because your body doesn’t know when to produce melatonin. If you thought falling asleep was already difficult, this can make things much worse.

Otherwise, blue light is relatively safe, and that includes the health of your eyes. Research suggests the light from screens is not damaging your eyes, but too much eyestrain and not enough blinking can cause issues.

When you look at a computer for too long, your eyes adjust, and you start blinking less. The less you blink, the more your eyes become dehydrated, which can cause issues. To protect the health of your eyes, ophthalmologists recommend the 20-20-20 rule. Take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and look about 20 feet away. This will reduce the strain, improve hydration, and keep your eyes healthy.

How to Naturally Reset Gut Health

Many scientists call the gut the “second brain” because it uses chemicals to send signals when something is wrong with your body. That has led many to speculate that improving your gut health could be the key to fat loss and longevity.

Scientists recently tried to examine the power of the gut by reviewing past research and came to a conclusion they didn’t expect: gut bacteria does not appear to be directly linked to weight loss or longevity.

Does this mean gut health doesn’t matter? Not at all. We know that a healthy gut can aid digestion, immunity, stress, and sleep. But many other claims appear to be either overstated, unclear, or unproven at this time.

You don’t need to stop taking your probiotics, but if you’re using them expecting they will help you live longer or burn more fat, there’s not enough evidence to suggest that’s the case. If you want to improve your gut health, you don’t even need supplements. Here is your checklist to help naturally restore your gut health:

How to Naturally Reset Your Gut Health

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables

  • Enjoy fermented foods (think sauerkraut and kimchi) and fiber (whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables)

  • Sleep at least 7 hours per night

  • Exercise weekly

  • Manage your stress by doing things you enjoy, connecting with friends, or meditating.

You’re Smoking 15 Cigarettes (And You Don’t Even Know It)

We all know that smoking cigarettes is one of the worst things you can do for your health. But did you know that being disconnected from others is arguably just as bad — if not worse — for your health?

Researchers from three different universities studied the impact of social isolation and unhappiness on older individuals and found that loneliness ages a person faster than smoking. Prior research had already suggested that a lack of family, friendship, or community was linked to a 30 percent increase in the likelihood of heart disease and stroke and a 50 percent increase in the likelihood of dementia.

But the new research offered a new perspective. The data suggests a lack of connection and hopelessness was the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes per day or having 6 drinks daily. To be clear, the researchers created a way of scoring how health behaviors impact biological age. It gives you a sense of good and bad, but it's hard to predict the overall impact on health, and biological age is not a clear predictor of longevity. That said, isolation creates a domino effect that reduces the likelihood of performing healthy behaviors, which is a real reason for concern. According to the researchers, people who are lonely tend to get less exercise and don’t sleep or eat as well.

We know it can be hard to connect, so remember being social is not about the total number of friendships. It’s about sharing a sense of values, beliefs, and interests, whether connecting with old friends or family, people in a chat room or gaming environment, or at an event like a concert or sports. All have a positive effect and lead to feeling connected. It doesn't matter if you’re introverted or extroverted, interact with people in-person or virtually; do your best to find your tribe of people, and realize that you’re not alone in this world. It can be a life-changer.