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Is Your Smartphone Making You Sick?

Here are 7 ways your mobile phone could be harming your health — and what to do about it

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    Text Neck

    En español | A whopping 90 percent of us text with our necks bent, which strains muscles, tendons and ligaments. Flexing the neck forward at a 60-degree angle also puts 60 pounds of weight on the spine, leading to degeneration and arthritis. The fix: Stand upright and keep your phone 12 to 14 inches from your face. Apps such as HeadUp and Text Neck Indicator alert you when you’re doing this wrong.

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    Bum Thumb

    Sending hundreds of texts a day? All that digit bending can cause inflammation in your fingers, leading to tendinitis or arthritis. And watch out for “trigger finger,” a condition that causes fingers to get stuck in a bent position. (You may need surgery to fix it.) The fix: Use voice-to-text, and take breaks when you’re typing on your phone. Try to send most of your emails from your computer keyboard. If you feel discomfort, stop and rest your hands, then gently stretch your thumbs and other fingers.

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    Some 65 percent of Americans suffer from digital eyestrain, a condition characterized by dry, itchy eyes and blurred vision. Also, the blue light emitted by your phone may damage your retinas, leading to macular degeneration. The fix: Ask your doctor about antireflective lenses, or try blue-light-blocking glasses from Gunnar ($69–$299) or Swannies ($89). Plus, try to blink frequently — at least 18 times a minute.

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    It’s tough enough to focus these days, but a smartphone can make this worse: It can take up to 27 seconds after disconnecting from a hands-free device to regain attention. The fix: Turn off notifications, and check texts and emails only at particular times (and never while driving); iPhone users can put their phones on Do Not Disturb, yet allow family or work calls to get through.

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    Crashing and falling

    Yes, it can be hard to stop reading and typing on a device even when you’re on the go. But researchers have shown that taking a stroll while doing these activities can affect posture and balance, making it harder to walk straight and increasing your tendency to bump into things or fall. Reading or typing on a smartphone may also lessen the intensity of a physical workout, one study found. The fix: If you must text or type, grab a seat. And put away your phone while exercising. Instead, put on some motivational tunes; listening to music can boost the speed and the enjoyment of your workout.

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    Reaching out to certain friends via smartphone when you’re down could make you feel worse. “The smartphone offers access to a variety of friends and family through social media and messaging,” says Prabu David, coauthor of a recent Michigan State University study, “but some of these friends may not be interested in meaningful conversation.” The fix: Whether digitally or in person, choose carefully whom you reach out to if you’re sad or depressed. Better yet, use your smartphone to make a date with someone you love.

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    The blue light can affect your circadian rhythms and suppress the body’s production of melatonin, tricking your brain into thinking it’s time to wake up. The fix: Your best bet is to disconnect, but if you can’t, apps such as Twilight, Sunset and CF.lumen put a filter over your phone to reduce brightness.

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