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Teen Brain Development Hampered by Alcohol

Keeping kegs out of dormitories makes a lot of sense.

Researchers studying teenagers for two years found significant negative brain changes is both heavy and moderate drinkers. The more alcohol consumed the worse the outcomes. After controlling for confounders, slower increases in gray matter and accelerated decreases in gray matter were observed.

PositiveTip: Drinking alcohol is harmful to adolescent brains--and brains of all ages!

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Teens Perception of Pot Changing

The marijuana industry wants to grow its profits while downplaying the health risks.

After marijuana was legalized in Washington and Colorado, teens perceived it less harmful and use of the drug in this group increased--especially in the younger teens. A large national survey has found even in states without laws allowing recreational use, the perception of the harmfulness of marijuana declined significantly following passage of these laws. While these laws are aimed primarily at adults, they also effect the younger generations.

PositiveTip: Don't let the rising popularity of marijuana blind you from the adverse effects.

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Kids, Smartphones and Sleep

Forty percent of kids have poor sleep quantity and quality when using smartphone before bed.

Two-thirds of high schoolers sleep next to a phone or tablet--and 47% awake at least once per night to respond to messages! A meta-analysis of 17 studies finds the use of smartphones and tablets at night are a significant problem for the amount and quality of sleep kids get. These studies were not randomized, so more research is needed.

PositiveTip: Phones are a part of life today--including kids. We need to find ways to keep phones out of their bedrooms, and maybe ours, too!

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No Decline in Tobacco Use Among U.S. Teens

Tobacco continues to be the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S.

There has been no decline in overall tobacco use among middle and high school students in the U.S. since 2011. The use of cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco and pipe tobacco has declined--while the use of nontraditional products such as e-cigarettes and hookah pipes continues to rise. E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among teens today. Sadly these products remain unregulated.

PositiveTip: No form of tobacco use is safe. Nicotine is an addictive drug that may cause permanent harm to brain development.

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Teen Alcohol Use

Ten percent of rural teens meet diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder.

Adolescents aged 12-20 living in rural Pennsylvania completed alcohol use assessments. The DSM-5 criteria for alcohol use disorder were met by 1.9% of 12-14 year-olds, and 10% of those 15-20 years old. Study authors recommend physicians screen adolescents about their frequency of alcohol use due to the high prevalence of alcohol-related harm among teens.

PositiveTip: Encourage young adults in your sphere of influence to avoid all alcohol use for their safety and health.

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Sunlight and Low BMI May Help Avoid MS

Daily UVB exposure during teens and lower BMI leads to later onset of MS.

Danish investigators found a strong protective effect of adolescent summer sun exposure and body mass index (BMI) at age 20 on later onset of multiple sclerosis (MS). Not spending time in the sun every day during the teen years was associated with earlier onset of MS; and similarly, a higher BMI at age 20 was associated with earlier MS. More research is needed.

PositiveTip: Young people should enjoy daily activities outdoors in the sunlight.

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Early Life Exercise Brings Lifetime Benefits

Only 25% of U.S. high school students meet the recommended 60 minutes of daily exercise.

Data from a large Chinese study of women 40-70 years old reveals that adolescent and adult exercise significantly reduces the risk of all-cause mortality. Women who didn't start exercising until adulthood saw a lower risk also, but not as low. Exercise is good at all ages, but there seems to be an additive benefit when started early in life.

PositiveTip: Girls who exercise put into their bank a lifetime benefit that lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature.

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Overweight Becoming the New Normal Among Teens

The gap between reality and perception about body weight has grown.

American teens don't seem to be getting the message that an increasing number of them are overweight or obese. Between 1988-1994 and 2007-2012 the likelihood of adolescents perceiving themselves as overweight declined. Only 21% of boys and 36% of girls perceived their weight correctly. This compares to 28% and 79%, respectively, in the earlier survey. Unfortunately, the new normal in society is being overweight.

PositiveTip: Choose your standard wisely when evaluating yourself! 

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Teenage Obesity and Colorectal Cancer Risk

Obesity during teens may increase risk of colorectal cancer.

A study of almost 240,000 Swedish males, 16-20 years old were measured for height and weight. After 35 years of follow-up those in the upper overweight (BMI 27.5 to <30) or obese (BMI 30+) at the beginning were more than twice as likely to develop colorectal cancer as those who were normal weight.

PositiveTip: Establishing habits of regular physical activity and a wholesome diet early in life may help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer later in life.

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Teen Age Depression--the "Other" STD

Every day more than 27,000 youth in the U.S. become infected with a STD.

In the U.S. an estimated 20 million new infections of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) occur annually, half of which are shouldered by America's youth. The Centers for Disease Control acknowledge that abstinence is the surest way to prevent these diseases. Dr. Meg Meeker, a pediatrician, suggests teen depression is the "other" STD and urges parents to openly talk with their children about these issues.

PositiveTip: Parents, do not gloss over the dangers of teenage sex. Encourage abstinence instead.