Health & Medicine

Get fit 2010: Keeping teens healthy and happy

In Life + Health this month, we're focusing on health and fitness. We'll target a generation each week. Today, we're focusing on the health and fitness of teens, with eight tips that might make getting through high school a bit easier. On May 4, we looked at kids. On May 18, we'll focus on the health and fitness of adults; and on May 25, seniors. Some of the tips we'll give will be new; some will be gentle reminders. All of it is geared toward making us all healthier and more fit.

1. Myth-busting: Does eating chocolate and fried foods cause acne? No, that would be hormones. About 8 percent of people between ages 11 and 30 have acne outbreaks. Wash your face gently with a mild cleanser in the morning and evening, and rinse thoroughly. Don't use astringents unless your skin is especially oily.

2. Oh my head! Head injuries can be especially serious for teen athletes. A "second impact" syndrome is seen almost exclusively in athletes younger than 21. The main cause? Returning to action before being cleared by a doctor. A second blow to the head could cause critical illness. For more information, go to www.mgh.harvard.edu and search for "sport injuries."

3. Don't sweat it: As if being a teen wasn't hard enough, hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, can begin in junior high. Sweating doesn't occur just in the armpits. The body's four million sweat glands also are concentrated in your hands and feet. Use antiperspirants, which work by plugging your sweat glands. Apply before bed and in the morning. Even if it's weird, talk to your family doc or parent to see if a dermatologist is needed.

4. Out in cyberspace: A long-term study conducted by psychologists at the University of Virginia found that rather than assuming different personalities online, teens operate in cyberspace much as they do in the real world. The study found that those in the study who had positive face-to-face friendships were the same teens and young adults who used social networking sites to deepen and extend relationships. Youths in the study who lacked social skills and positive interactions in real life were more likely to use social networking sites in negative ways, such as making threats, posting put-downs and posting inappropriate photos of themselves.

5. Get some Ds: Vitamin D is important for bone growth and health. Your body manufactures it from sunlight, but it can also be found in egg yolks, fish oil and fortified foods, including milk. Teens need 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D a day. Ask your doctor to see whether supplements are right for you.

6. Chew-less: An estimated 20 percent of boys and two percent of girls in high school use smokeless tobacco. Most of the 12 to 14 million adults who chew developed the habit before age 13. Smokeless tobacco isn't a safe alternative to smoking. It can cause mouth sores, cracked and bleeding gums, loss of teeth, increased heart rate, high blood pressure and cancer. If you need help quitting, local health departments often offer classes. To find your local department, go to http:/chfs.ky.gov. For the Lexington Fayette-County Health Department, call (859) 252-2371.

7. Disturbing signs: Suicide is a leading cause of teen death. The stress of growing independence, combined with those surging hormones, can be a lethal mix. Signs include loss of appetite, acting out, restlessness, excessively sleepiness or withdrawing from previously favored activities. Take these signs seriously. Seek professional help if needed. For more information, go to www.suicide.org or call 1-800-273-8255.

8. Veg out: Lots of teens consider becoming vegetarians. Here are some tips for doing it right: Nutrients that vegetarians might need to focus on include protein, iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin B12. Protein can found in beans, nuts, peas and soy products, including tofu or veggie burgers. Enjoy beans and rice, or maybe a three-bean salad or split pea soup. A good source of healthful fresh food is the local farmers market. In Fayette County, go to www.lexingtonfarmersmarket.com. To find a farmers market in your area, enter "farmers market directory 2010" and "Kentucky" in a search engine.

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