Why the perks of working in Silicon Valley may not extend to your health

Ronesh Sinha, MD, an internal medicine physician at Sutter Health Palo Alto (Calif.) Medical Foundation, said a significant number of his patients —  generally young, healthy individuals working in Silicon Valley  — have increasingly begun to exhibit symptoms of uncontrolled diabetes and heart disease, two of the "biggest drivers of poor health and high healthcare costs," he told Politico.

He said most of his patients don't experience the typical socioeconomic factors that indicate poor health. Rather, his patients are generally highly educated, earn stable incomes and have access to several employer-sponsored benefits, such as high-quality meals and onsite gyms.

So what makes them susceptible to conditions like heart disease and diabetes? Dr. Sinha outlines four behaviors that may affect an employee's health.

1. Sedentary behavior. "My patients on average walk about 3,000 steps daily, far less than the goal of 10,000 steps a day," Dr. Sinha told Politico. "Twenty to 30 minutes on an elliptical machine are better than nothing, but … hardly counter the adverse metabolic effects of marathon sitting sessions … The most at-risk employees need more creative solutions to get them out of their chairs and moving."

2. Food habits. "Company-offered meals and snacks have definitely evolved from the early days … [but] an employee under high stress will often pass by the salad bar and head straight for high-carb comfort foods and sugary desserts," Dr. Sinha said.

He added, "chronically stressed workers tend to overeat or, in many cases, undereat. Either extreme can trigger conditions like diabetes, heart disease and obesity from caloric abundance or nutrient deficiencies that slow metabolism and trigger autoimmune health conditions."

3. Not visiting a physician enough. According to Dr. Sinha, despite Americans' access to world-class medicine, most still choose to forgo medical care until they become sick. "On a work campus with onsite restaurants, haircuts, car washes and dry cleaning, a 10-minute drive to a doctor's office seems like an unacceptably long journey to many," he said.

4. Too much stress. "Most people who arrive [in Silicon Valley] want to join or start the next billion-dollar company … their plan is that 'once they hit it big,' they'll have time to focus on their health," he claimed. "They push ahead, glued to their devices, working late into the night, putting health on the back burner."

Dr. Sinha told Politico the best way to fight such behaviors is to develop personalized solutions for individual health problems.

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