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        Volume 11 |Issue 39| October 05, 2012 |


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Biggest Office Aches

Medical professionals have been telling us for years: sitting at a desk is killing us, literally. If you want to avoid an untimely demise under the florescent lights of that cubicle you love, read the biggest health problems that can come from working in an office, and the ways to prevent them.

Lower-Back Pain
While you may think that lower-back pain only affected your father after he “single-handedly wrestled with a full-grown tiger”, it has become an increasing problem for office workers of all ages. Experts say that this is due to the increase in inactive positions; namely, sitting on your behind for more than a few hours of the day. Add to that an increase in bad posture, and the result can be devastating to your body over time. Employers should be mindful of this as well since, according to Georgetown University in the USA, back pain is among the top reasons for employees having to miss work (at least that is what they claim to be missing work for). It isn't just slouching either, sitting up straight but curving your back too much can also lead lower-back pain.

Prevention: Besides being better aware of your posture as you're sitting at your desk, getting regular exercise, including abdominal strengthening activities, should relieve some of the pressure on your lower back.

Make sure you stand often; the simple act of standing improves blood flow and engages your muscles from feet to trunk. If you do not have a reason to get up, make one! Moving your desk items such as printer, scotch tape, fax machine away from your desk, as well as getting up to talk to someone instead of sending them an email can help you get up and around more often. The chair that you sit in is also very important; it should help support good posture and not reinforce bad ones.

Those of us who have to look at spread sheets for hours on end will most certainly have felt, at some point, that the numbers were burning holes in our eyes.

Programmers sorting through thousands of lines of code on a mountain dew fuelled 3am coding binge are well aware of the melty eye phenomenon. Well, the feeling that your eyes may be, literally, melting out of your head isn't too far off from reality; staring at a computer screen for long periods of time can lead to blurry and overly sensitive eyes, too-watery or too-dry eyes, headaches or a sore neck according to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, USA.

Prevention: To prevent eyestrain at your computer, increase your font size so you don't have to squint. You should also rest your eyes frequently by looking away from your computer screen, which, coincidentally, is a perfect excuse when your boss catches you taking a little catnap, “I was just resting my eyes to reduce eyestrain, boss.” If he doesn't believe you, make sure he knows that as a worse case it can cause dizziness, fatigue or vomiting and is often attributed to learning and attention problems.

When thinking about the world's dirtiest jobs, working in an office generally doesn't jump into most peoples minds, but “the office” in terms of bacteria and germs, is 400 times dirtier than your toilet. While generally not the breeding ground for the Ebola virus, desks are a rampant with germs, due in part to eating at your desk which can turn it into a bacteria cafeteria. It isn't the fact that you're eating food at your desk which is dirty, but rather the issue is that the aftermath of your delicious desk meal is rarely cleaned up; leaving lots of tasty crumbs for those hungry, hungry microbes. According to experts, the phone is the dirtiest item sitting on your desk, your keyboard is next, and the mouse and the computer follow. Food remnants can get into hard to reach areas of your desk and can attract rats, cockroaches and other creepy crawlers when the lights go out, which leads to unintended exposure to their germs. Add to this the coworker who never washes their hands after using the toilet and you don't stand a chance. At the end of the day, your office is a bacterial battleground, and you are the most tempting target.

Prevention: If you frequently eat your lunch at your desk, you may want to make sure you have hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes to wipe down your work surface daily. That can also protect you from germs sprayed into the air by your coughing and sneezing coworkers. If your office has a communal kitchen sink with a sponge, use paper towels instead, just to stay safe from bacteria. And tell that dirty non-hand washing salesman to wise up, or else.

Also, if you bring your own lunch, remember that raw and cooked foods need to remain refrigerated; leaving them out for two hours or more is a food safety no-no.

Although not a new issue, the problem is becoming worse as lack of physical activities, increased levels of stress, and the growing prevalence of junk food contribute to an increase in obesity in workplaces around the world.

Obesity is a main factor in increased levels of LDL cholesterol in blood, blood clotting and other dangerous medical conditions. It can also have affects on your muscles and posture, resulted in a downward spiral of a healthy mind and body. Obesity is also a main contributor to Erectile Dysfunction in adult males; which should be enough reason for all our guy readers to hit the gym, now.

Prevention: Watch what you eat at the office and do not pig out with a big meal at lunch. Besides being unhealthy for you, a large lunch will most certainly not help as you try to keep your eyes open during the afternoon doldrums. Health experts say that the best way to keep your waistline from expanding is small meals more often. Also, instead of munching on chips and chocolate bars throughout the day, keep it healthy.

Colon cancer
While experts still debate on whether an office jobs can have a definitive link to colon cancer, it is certain that sitting for hours on end is a leading factor in the increase in colon cancer across the globe. According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, experts have found that people who work in the office for more than 10 years, and spend most of the time in sedentary work at a desk, have up to a 44 per cent increase in a risk of colon cancer.

Prevention: As with many of the other items on this list, getting up and moving around during the day, as well as a healthy diet can help to reduce this risk. Broccoli has been identified as a leading preventative agent in the fight against colon cancer, so it could be a good idea to load up on a lunch full of that green leafy vegetable. However, broccoli also causes flatulence; if colon cancer doesn't get you, your stinky farts may just turn the tables and give your coworkers the incentive they need to get there first.

Heart disease
Even if your heart is not in your work, it is certainly being exposed to it. According to British scientists, those who work for 10-11 hours in the office have up to 67 percent higher risks to develop heart disease.

As well as the other contributing factors already listed, it is due in part to working long hours and having less time for exercise, healthy eating and physician's visits. Working in an office can also expose workers to more stress, less sleep and engage in other behaviors which contribute to cardiovascular risk, particularly that much needed smoking break.

Prevention: Getting up from your desk every 30 minutes can decrease the risk of having a heart attack. Take time during your lunch break to go for a stroll at a brisk pace and drink more water. However, if you're getting up for a cigarette, you're not fooling anyone. Get back to work.

Source: Pacific Prime Blog, an international health insurance blog.


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