Tag: adolescent health

Proof To Start High School Later In The Day

Think back to those wonderful days of high school – do you remember having to drag yourself from class to class after a late night of studying and not enough hours of sleep? Was it not the worst??

Well thanks to a new study released in February of this year it might be time to set teenagers’ alarm clocks for an hour later.

Using over 9,000 students in eight public high school, researchers at the University of Minnesota determined that a later start to the school day drastically increases the productivity and health of high school students.

According to the three-year long study, high schools that start at 8:30 AM or later give more than 60% of students the opportunity to obtain at least eight hours of sleep each school night, causing the schools to experience a number of positive outcomes.

For instance, schools with later start times have experienced the following:

  • Increased academic performance in core subjects (such as math, English, science, and social studies)
  • Increased attendance rates
  • Reduced tardiness
  • AND a 70% reduction in the number of car crashes in teenage drivers (ages 16-18) when schools made the switch from class starting at 7:30 AM back to 8:55 AM.

Additionally, research has identified that teens that get less than eight hours of sleep reported significantly higher rates of depression symptoms, caffeine use, and greater risk of making poor choices on substance use – all of which can be helped by simply setting back the school bells by one measly hour!

More research is needed to support the findings of this study but at the very least it serves as a great starting point for those hoping to change the operating hours of their local high schools.

Ultimately we all know a good night’s rest is essential to our health, so perhaps it’s time to revisit this idea of “the early bird gets the worm” because according to this study, the bird who sleeps in gets better grades and lives a healthier life, which sounds way better than a silly worm.


Post source: Wahlstrom, K., Dretzke, B., Gordon, M., Peterson, K., Edwards, K., & Gdula, J. (2014). Examining the Impact of Later High School Start Times on the Health and Academic Performance of High School Students: A Multi-Site Study.

Subtle and Sinister: How Secondhand Smoke is Hurting Kids

Many parents who smoke know the potential damage to their own bodies.  But are they aware of the potential damage to their children’s bodies?

A recent study published in the European Heart Journal found that secondhand smoke can cause permanent damage to children’s arteries, prematurely aging their blood vessels by more than three years.

Smoke thickens blood vessel walls and increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes later in life.

The study, done by researchers in Finland and Australia, looked at more than 2,000 children ages 3-18, and found that this damage occurred if both parents smoked.

A few important, and sometimes unknown, facts about passive or secondhand smoke:

  • Smoke can stay in the air for up to two and a half hours even with a window open
  • It may still be there even if you can’t see it or smell it
  • Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, some of which are known to cause cancer
  • Children who breathe in secondhand smoke have an increased risk of asthma and coughs and colds, as well as cot death, meningitis and ear infections
  • (Source: BBC News)

Experts assert that there is no “safe” amount of exposure to secondhand smoke.

In a separate study done in 2012, research found that smoking in the car, even if the windows or open or the air conditioning is on, creates a level of pollution that is higher than the official World Health Organization “safe” limits.

The second study determined that secondhand smoke causes more than 20,000 cases of lower respiratory tract infection and 200 cases of bacterial meningitis in children, as well as 40 sudden infant deaths each year in the United Kingdom.

Critics of the research say there are many other factors that could come into play in causing this damage, including poor diet and other forms of air pollution.

But study author Seanna Gull defends the findings and asserts that “passive smoke in childhood causes a direct and irreversible damage to the structure of the arteries.”

She said, “Parents, or even those thinking about becoming parents, should quit smoking. This will not only restore their own health but also protect the health of their children into the future.”


Photo Credit: Navarr on Flickr

Sleep for Success: Why U.S. Students Need More Zs

There are many things in which the United States excels.  Getting enough sleep is not one of those things.

In a recent study by researchers at Boston College, the United States was found to have the highest number of sleep-deprived students: 73% of 9 and 10-year-olds and 80% of 13 and 14-year-olds were said to be affected by a lack of sleep, as reported by their teachers.

The international average, while lower than the U.S., shows that 47% of elementary students need more sleep, and 57% of middle and high school students.Sleep deprivation by country

The other countries topping the list of most sleep-deprived students were New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, England, Ireland, and France.

So what’s the problem?

Not getting enough sleep limits the ability of students to learn and do well in their classes: those getting less sleep have trouble listening, concentrating, and solving problems.

Studies have even found that students who are sleep deprived need lessons to be dumbed down in order to grasp what’s being taught, which also means that the students who are getting enough sleep are missing out on higher quality lessons.

Sleep deprivation is also linked to depression in teenagers: kids who go to bed at midnight or later are 24% more likely to be depressed than teenagers who have a 10pm or earlier bedtime.

According to The National Sleep Foundation, other consequences that the sleep-deprived should expect are unhealthy eating and drinking patterns, being more easily irritable and impatient, unsafe driving, and even getting more pimples.

For many U.S. teens, demanding schedules full of A.P.s, extra curricular activities, and the desire to have a social life make it hard to imagine trying to fit in more sleep.  But a busy schedule might not be the only problem.

Experts think that the lack of sleep in more affluent countries could be linked to the use of computers and cell phone late at night in bedrooms.  Whether it’s texting their friends, Facebook stalking, or even just having the light of a screen inches from their face, technology can be physically disruptive to the natural process of falling asleep.

The good news? If you start getting enough sleep on a regular basis, you can reverse the loss to learning.

“As long you haven’t gone into extreme sleep deprivation, if you go back to seven to nine hours per night, as long as there has been no permanent damage, you can probably restore the functionality of accumulating, processing and being able to recall memories,” says Dr Fitzpatrick.

Make sleep a priority. Maybe keep a sleep diary. Decide what you need to change to get enough sleep to stay healthy, happy, and smart.

So if you’re a teenager, a parent, or another type of sleep-deprived individual, take a moment to consider: What can you do to start getting enough sleep to give you day-to-day and long-term success?


Source:  The National Sleep Foundation

Photo Credit:  D Sharon Pruitt

Tanning Bed

Which Causes More Cancer, Tanning Beds or Cigarettes?

If you predicted cigarettes, guess what? – You’re wrong!! That’s right ladies and gentlemen, tanning beds cause more cancer than cigarettes!!

According to a recent study conducted at the University of California San Francisco that reviewed the stats of 88 major studies from over the past 20 years, every year indoor tanning causes more skin cancer than cigarettes cause lung cancer. This means that the cancer-causing habit of indoor tanning, which is known to cause somewhere between 3 and 22% of all skin cancer cases, leads to more cancer cases than smoking cigarettes, which is known to cause about 90% of all lung cancer cases!

Based on the study’s findings, the researchers determined that every year there are an estimated 450,000 cases of skin cancer that result from indoor tanning, while there are an estimated 360,000 cases of lung cancer that result from smoking cigarettes. But how can this be?!

According to the researchers, indoor tanning is incredibly common and it seems to be increasing. In the last year alone, 14% of adults, 19% of adolescents, and 43% of college students have visited a tanning bed. In complete contrast, however, is the rate of smoking – evidence shows that while indoor tanning is rising cigarette use is declining. In addition to this, the research shows that people are aware of the dangers associated with smoking cigarettes, but they are unaware of the dangers associated with indoor tanning. Heck, even some doctors prescribe indoor tanning as a treatment to certain ailments!

So what are we to do? The best advice the researchers have for us is to: 1.) Don’t indoor tan (and if you are, please stop) and 2.) Spread the word to others to stop indoor tanning (and not to smoke, of course). There’s no better tag line than “tanning beds cause more cancer than cigarettes” so go ahead and Tweet it, Facebook post it, and anything else you can do to pass along the message.

To our readers: Did this information come as a shock to you? Particularly to those of you who indoor tan does this information make you want to stop your trips to the tanning bed?


Post source: “Whoa: Tanning beds cause more cancer than cigarettes!” by Anna Maltby, retrieved from: http://healthyliving.msn.com/health-wellness/whoa-tanning-beds-cause-more-cancer-than-cigarettes#tscptme)’ on February 18, 2014.

Youth Health Hits the Minority Health Conference

On Friday, February 28th, the 35th Annual Minority Health Conference will take place at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This full-day event brings together scholars and practitioners who study and work on reducing health disparities for minority communities.

This year, the title is “Innovative Approaches to Youth Health: Engaging Youth in Creating Healthy Communities”, and will focus on enabling youth to make a difference in promoting healthy lifestyles to their peers and in their communities.

Keynote speakers include Dr. Gail C. Christopher, Vice President of Program Strategy at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Michael Yonas, Director or Research, Evaluation and Engagement at the Allegheny County Department of Health and Human Services.

There will be morning and afternoon breakout sessions on topics such as adolescent development, healthcare policy, hard-to-reach youth, and social media, among others.

The Minority Health Conference is the largest and longest running student-led health conference in the country. The conference aims to raise awareness around health disparities and mobilize students, academics, and community members to take action for change. The event was started in 1977 by the UNC Minority Student Caucus.

For more about the conference and the passion behind it, check out the conference video.

Click here to register for the 35th Annual Minority Health Conference.

Can’t make it to Chapel Hill?  Sign up for the free webcast of our keynote speaker: http://minorityhealth.web.unc.edu/conference/keynote-webcast/


*Note – Registration for the in-person event closes Friday, February 14th.


Peanut Allergy Be Gone!

In all our efforts to combat sickness and infections we’ve been told to wash our hands and cover our coughs, yet there’s still the age old theory that says to expose yourself to what makes you sick so your body can learn to fight it – makes sense, right? Well this idea of building tolerance made so much sense that it’s been applied by on a team of researchers working to combat peanut allergies in children and you know what? – It’s working!

According to an experiment held at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in the U.K. a group of 99 children, ages 7 to 16 who were known to be allergic to peanuts, consumed increasing small amounts of peanut flour with their food and after six months eighty percent of the children could safely consume peanuts.

Like the theory of exposing yourself to a cold to help your body fight off a cold, the experiment was by giving the kids small exposures to the peanut so that their immune systems would slowly build a tolerance. Interestingly, however, is that the objective of the experiment to eliminate the children’s allergy but to simply build a strong enough tolerance so that their reactions wouldn’t be so severe or life-threatening.

While we still lack a cure for allergies, experiments such as this are a great step in the right direction. For unknown reasons, though food allergies are on the rise in the United States, we really know how food allergies develop; one possible theory is that our food sanitation is making us “too clean,” causing our immune systems to be too weak to fight off common food and environment allergens.

So perhaps our food allergies should be like that of the Chicken Pox? – expose yourself early so your body can learn to fight it off, it might just save a life.

For our readers: If you have a food allergy, would you ever consider being a part of this research? Why or why not?


Post source and credit: “Cure your kids’ peanut allergies by feeding them peanuts” by Alexandra Sifferlin from TIME Health & Family, published on January 30, 2014 at:  http://healthland.time.com/2014/01/30/scientists-to-cure-peanut-allergies/


ADHD: NOT a Disease

Over the last ten years one disease has taken the cake for overdiagnosis, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). As of 2011, 11% of all American children were tagged as suffering from ADHD – that’s one in every nine kids.

But as our rate of ADHD diagnoses has skyrocketed so has its research, and now, doctors are coming forth with a rather controversial claim: ADHD is not real. According to neurologist Richard Saul, the author of the upcoming book, “ADHD Does Not Exist: The Truth About Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder,” ADHD is not a disease but rather a collection of misdiagnosed symptoms.

After his long career of treating patients that suffered from problems of short attention spans and difficulties focusing, Saul has corrected numerous diagnoses of ADHD by delving further into the reasons as to why his patients couldn’t focus. For example, one little girl was notorious for causing disruptions in class and not paying attention, turns out the young patient didn’t need Adderall, just a pair of glasses so she could see the chalkboard…Or what the 35-year-old man who claimed he was addicted to video games and needed Ritalin to stay focused at work? – Turns out he was drinking too much coffee and only getting four hours of sleep, he just needed some blackout shades and to turn off all of his devices at night…

According to Saul, ADHD is a quick and easy fix to get people to shut up and pay attention, when in reality all this self-diagnosing is really doing is creating a drug-happy world that’s running the risk of long term side effects. Adderall and Ritalin are the kind of drug that the more you use it the more your body becomes tolerant of it, causing you to need more and more until one day all you’re left with are the horrendous side effects of poor concentration, poor memory, mood problems, and even reduced life expectancy.

As hard as it may be for some to believe, it’s time to face the facts: ADHD doesn’t exist.


Post Source & Credit to: “ADHD does not exist” by Kyle Smith from the New York Post, January 4, 2014. http://nypost.com/2014/01/04/adhd-does-not-exist/

Will Raising the Cigarette Purchase Age Lower Smoking?

Last week, New York City decided that young people will have to wait until they’re 21 to legally purchase cigarettes (including e-cigarettes).

NYC’s former minimum age and the US federal minimum age to buy is 18, although a few states have already raised the limit to 19 and a handful of other towns have raised it to 21.  If the bill becomes law, NYC would be the most populous place to mandate the higher age.

The bill’s sponsor, City Councilman James Gennaro, said that this measure would “literally save many, many lives”.

Supporters of the bill claim that by increasing the age to 21, young people will be prevented from ever starting to smoke, and that it will reduce the total number of deaths, disease, and health care costs caused by tobacco use.  It will also help to keep cigarettes out of high schools, where many seniors are 18 or 19 years old.

But does raising the minimum sales age actually mean less young people will be smoking?

Though the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids praises NYC’s new bill, one of their most recent reports says that more than half of twelfth graders who are current smokers had tried smoking by the end of ninth grade, and that the peak years for first trying to smoke are between the ages of 11 to 13.

If most kids are starting to smoke at such early ages (when they are not able to legally buy cigarettes), will changing the minimum age of purchase actually make a huge difference in how many are smoking?  Could there potentially be negative consequences to such a measure?  Some critics say that young people may turn to the black market for cigarettes once it is illegal for them to buy elsewhere.

Don’t get me wrong.  This bill is likely to help far more than hurt, and policies like this might be a good start. It’s most certainly better than doing nothing.  But, it seems that much more effort should be focused on understanding and confronting the deeper issues of why young people are experimenting with and then habitually using cigarettes, and attacking the roots of the societal issue, such as family and cultural issues, peer pressure, and depression, among others.  And in the case of someone who was able, as a 13 year-old, to start and sustain a smoking habit, raising the sales cigarette age will probably not make any difference.

Any efforts to decrease future tobacco use levels among young people should absolutely include a focus on reducing experimentation and regular tobacco use among teenagers and preteens.  And hoping that, some day, through behavior change, and ultimately a common desire and ability to be healthy, tobacco use and abuse will not be nearly as prevalent, and will lose its status as the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States.

Is policy the right approach?  And, if not, what is?


Photo courtesy of: James Alby

Sources: NYTimes.com, BBC.com, CDC

Online Health Records Increase Child Well-Visits

One of the upcoming areas in health information is the creation of online health records. While there are still many debates about privacy and confidentiality, the reality is, health information is coming into the digital age, and before too long everyone could have access to their health records over the web. In the meantime, however, research is being conducted to examine the positives and negatives of putting health information online.

A recent positive for online health information came from a study that investigated the effects of online health record usage on children’s well-visit attendance. The research found that healthcare locations that offered parents online access to their children’s health records had higher rates of well-visit attendance and vaccination management than healthcare locations that did not offer online health record access.

With access to post-visit instructions, immunization records, and tools for managing appointments, the study discovered that 82% of babies in a Northwestern healthcare location had gone to all of their recommended well-visits, compared to 64% of babies in a Northwestern healthcare location where the parents did not have access to online health records.

While more work needs to be done to determine whether or not online health record access is the cause of the increase in well-visits attendance and vaccine management, it cannot be denied that online access to health records is a useful tool – particularly for busy parents.


Post courtesy of:

–          “Online health records tied to more well-child visits” By Genevra Pittman

–          Tom, J. O., Chen, C., & Zhou, Y. Y. (2013). Personal Health Record Use and Association with Immunizations and Well-Child Care Visits Recommendations. Journal of Pediatrics. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2013.08.046

Fashion Meets Ovulation

Check-marks on our calendars, applications on our phones, and monthly alarms – whatever technique we count on the goal is the same, to map out our periods.

The term ‘cycle’ is not used to simply explain ‘on’ or ‘off’ our periods, but rather to show that every day women experience different hormone levels, all of which affect feminine processes. In particular, a few days of every cycle are seen as the most important for many women, our days of ovulation. For a brief moment women are at an optimal high of balanced hormones to create the ideal environment for conception. However, not all women seek to conceive and therefore utilize a variety of tools to inform themselves of not only the time of their periods but also of their days of possible ovulation.

Recently, a new tool for following our flow has hit the market, it’s called Feby. Also known as the Female Empowerment Bracelet, Febys are a color-coded bracelet that women wear to help keep themselves aware of where they are in their monthly cycle. The colors of the bracelet consist of red, white pink and black. Red represents the days of a woman’s period; white is used for “neutral days,” in which a woman cannot get pregnant; pink indicates day of ovulation and high fertility; and black signifies the dark day of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The instructions then tell users to move the knot of their bracelet through one bead every day to help them keep track of where they are in their cycle and to help them prepare for what will be coming in the following days, particularly when it comes to preventing pregnancy.

So if you are looking for something a bit more fashionable and functional than a smiley-face on your calendar, then the bead-a-day tricks and styles of a Feby just may be for you.


This clip made by Feby.com provides further information about how the bracelet works, in addition to instructions of how to make your very own Feby according to your personal cycle.

**Kits for your own Female Empowerment Bracelet can be bought from Feby.com**

Post credit and source is from: Feby.com

Image credit source: https://www.google.com/search?site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1366&bih=667&q=Feby.com&oq=Feby.com&gs_l=img.3..0i24.10553.12588.0.12838.….0…1ac.1.27.img..2.8.369.3LMXm7oQGM8#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=ZnWYw7zxpHLnNM%3A%3BpOvKSxcVUPooTM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.shamelessmag.com%252Fmedia%252Fcontent%252F2012%252F10%252Ffeby.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.shamelessmag.com%252Fblog%252F2012%252F10%252Fproduct-review-the-female-empowerment-bracelet%252F%3B932%3B700