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Early Bedtime for Preschoolers

Early to bed in preschool reduces the risk of adolescent obesity.

A new study suggests that putting preschoolers to bed early may help prevent the risk for adolescent obesity. The risk for adolescent obesity was cut in half when children went to bed before 8:00 PM compared to those who stayed up past 9:00 PM. It is estimated that 25% of U.S. preschoolers go to bed after 9:00 PM, and only 25% retire before 8:00 PM.

PositiveTip: Parents, encourage your preschoolers to establish a routine of early bedtime!

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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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Teenage Drinking Shrinks Gray Matter

Normal development of the teenage brain affected by use of alcohol.

Heavy drinking of alcohol during adolescence appears to lead to the exaggerated loss of gray matter and an increase in white matter compared to non-drinking peers. The study subjects tended to drink in binges on weekends or at parties. At baseline average GPA was 3.5 (of 4), but the drinkers average dropped during the study to 3.2, while the non-drinkers remained the same.

PositiveTip: Encourage adolescents to avoid the use of all alcohol!

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Family Meals May Reduce Obesity

Eating together even once a week can reduce teen obesity risk.

Researchers followed 2,117 teens over 10 years and compared teen obesity outcomes in families that ate 0, 1-2, 3-4 or 5+ meals together each week. Compared to kids who never ate family meals, ANY number of family meals helped reduce risk of obesity, even 1 day a week. Researchers suggest that family meals provide opportunities for more nutritious food, healthy eating behaviors and improved emotional connections.

PositiveTip: Eat at least one family meal together each week to improve your family’s long-term health.

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Screentime at Bedtime Robs Kids of Sleep

Children that go to bed with an electronic device sleep 1 hour less on average.

The National Sleep Foundation's 2014 survey found that almost 72% of children go to bed with an electronic device. The light from these devices disrupts the natural sleep patterns, causing children to sleep 1 hour less on average. Insufficient sleep can adversely affect children's school performance, decision making and overall behavior.

PositiveTip: Parents should set limits and provide healthy alternatives for bedtime electronic use.

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Teen Exercise May Improve Brain Efficiency

Fit teen’s brains have improved white matter to aid attention and memory.

A new study examining 24 students aged 9 and 10 found that physically fit teens had better developed white matter than less fit teens. White matter connects different brain regions. Researchers monitored white matter connecting attention and memory brain regions and hypothesize that “children with higher fitness levels may have faster neural conduction between brain regions important for cognitive control”.

PositiveTip: Keep your teens physically active so their muscles and brain matter will both develop.

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Sleep and Weight Gain in Teens

Obesity is more likely in sleep-deprived teens.

Teens are 20% more likely to be obese at 21 if they get less than 6 hours of sleep per night rather than 8+ hours of sleep. Using data for 10,000 teens over 6 years, researchers found 1 in 5 teens were sleep-deprived. The link between sleep and obesity may be attributed to resulting inactivity and poor food choices made when sleepy.

PositiveTip: Help your teens manage their night-owl activities and get their 8+ hours of sleep so they perform better in school and reduce obesity risk.

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Exercise Reduces Depression Risk in Teens

Fit female students are less likely to be depressed a year later

There’s new evidence for exercise’s preventative role in teen mental health. Researchers surveyed 457 sixth- graders for depressive symptoms, BMI and tested their fitness. They found that girls who were in better shape were less likely to be depressed in grade seven. The effect was observed in boys but was not statistically significant.

Positive Tip: Exercise had a real but modest effect on depression, so it should be used in conjunction with one-on-one cognitive behavioral therapy or group therapy to address depressive symptoms.

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School Sports Improve Teens Mental Health

Playing team sports is associated with less depression and better self image in students.

Canadian researchers tracked the school sport participation and mental health of 853 students from grades 8-12. They found that after 5 years, those who were involved in teams sports at school had less depressive symptoms, lower perceived stress and a more positive self-image. Specific causes aren't clear, but researchers hypothesize it may be related to the social bonds fostered in playing together.

PositiveTip: Encourage your teen to join a school team sport they enjoy.

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Breakfast Habits May Predict Risk of Cardiovascular Disorders

Youth who eat a poor breakfast are at higher risk for metabolic syndrome in adulthood.

A new study from Sweden adds more evidence to the importance of a healthy breakfast. Researchers surveyed 889 adolescents's breakfast habits and then checked their health 27 years later. They found that youth who missed breakfast or ate a nutritionally deficient breakfast were 68% more likely to have metabolic syndrome than students who ate a hearty, healthy breakfast.

PositiveTip: Eat a healthy breakfast every day and you may prevent cardiovascular health risks later.