Monday, March 1, 2010

Health Care and 10 Tips for Teens

Teenagers are in a brave new world. Since the 1960s in America, teens have exploded in their attempt to identify themselves in a society that has allowed them more freedom of expression than ever before since the history of the country. Much of that liberty is due to the devaluation of absolutes in the national culture, and a breakdown of moral values that has resulted from an absence of essential truths that historically had been propogated in the public school systems and elsewhere in the American psyche. Much of the new wave of expression demonstrated by teens over the past half century has also been media driven--social boundaries have been pushed to the maximum extremes with all types of information and access to material formerly seen as taboo prior to the last 50 years.

The health care of teenagers has taken a major hit as well with unprecedented rises in multiple areas of concern for life and death including sexually transmitted diseases, suicide, accidents, addictions, and new strains of drug resistant "bugs", such as MRSA. More adolescents than ever before are seeing attacks on their bodies and minds, and there is an ever increasing need to preach abstinence, common sense, preventive medicine, and counseling. The health of the American teenager is under attack from sources on all sides that would seek to do them in, and not be unashamed about their assault. The medical community has seen a rise over the past half century in health care issues that have health care providers concerned more than ever for the safety and well being of adolescent America.

Additionally, the average teen is becoming more slothful with the advent of computers and portable electronic devices in the past 10-20 years. According to ScienceDaily.com, researchers have shown how the proportion of young people who watch television and play on the computer for more than two hours per day doubles at the weekend. And while boys opt for video games, teenage girls prefer to surf the net. A sedentary lifestyle has become one of the major public health problems in developed countries. During the week, one-third of teenagers said the watched more than two hours of television per day. At weekends, this figure exceeds 60%. Now, more than ever, teenagers devote more time to sedentary behaviour (in front of a screen) at the weekend. In the study, teenagers indicated the amount of time they spent in front of the television, computer and games consoles, the amount of time spent connected to the Internet and the amount of time spent studying (outside school hours).

The researchers also studied the availability of computers, televisions and consoles at home and in teenagers' bedrooms, and their impact on whether they watched too much television (more than two hours per day). Having a games console or television in the bedroom triples the risk of exceeding the health recommendations to not spend more than two hours per day watching television. However, having a computer in the bedroom reduces the risk of excessive television watching. The authors also observed significant differences between the sexes in terms of the amount of time spent on sedentary pastimes. Adolescent girls are more sedentary in terms of the amount of time spent studying and surfing the net, while boys spend more time playing electronic games. More teen health news topics can also be found on this site: http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/health_medicine/teen_health/.

Additionally, teens experience a variety of other issues, according to ABCLocal.com:
1.) Eating Disorders:
--10% of people with the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia are male.
--In the United States, as many as 10 in 100 young women suffer from an eating disorder.
--Warning signs: won't maintain a normal body weight for height and age, terrified of becoming fat, and says he or she feels fat even when he or she is not.
--Eating disorders rose significantly among American boys between 1995 and 2005.
--Increase in dieting and diet product use among female adolescents.
--The increased weight control behavior noted in males suggests growing social pressure for males to achieve unrealistic body expectations.
--Males have negative attitudes toward treatment-seeking and are less likely than females to seek treatment.
(From International Journal of Eating Disorders)

2.) Teen Pregnancy:
--Three out of 10 U.S. girls get pregnant at least once before their 20th birthday.
--After a 15-year decline in teen pregnancies, there was a 3 percent increase in the most recent year tallied.
--Most states leave the scope of sex education up to the local school boards.
--46% of all 15-19-year-olds in the United States have had sex at least once.

3.) Sexually Transmitted Infections:
--Although 15-24-year-olds represent only one-quarter of the sexually active population, they account for nearly half of all new STIs each year.
--Human papillomavirus (HPV) infections account for about half of STIs diagnosed among 15-24-year-olds each year.
--1 in 4 U.S. teen girls has an STI, with HPV being the most common.

4.) Teens and Stress:
--Most teens experience more stress when they perceive a situation as dangerous, difficult, or painful and they do not have the resources to cope.
--Inadequately managed stress can lead to anxiety, withdrawal, aggression, physical illness, or drug and/or alcohol use.

5.) Teens and Sleep:
--Most teens need about 8½ to more than 9 hours of sleep each night.
--Lack of sleep causes decline in grades at school, poor athletic performance, decreased reaction time while driving.
--20% of teens fall asleep in class.
--Caffeine and teens: teens who consume higher amounts of caffeine during the day sleep fewer hours at night and take more daytime naps.

So what should parents and health care professionals do about all these alarming statistics? Help is available from many sources, from internet sites devoted to teen health topics to counselors for mental, physical, and spiritual assistance, to clinics and facilities available to the public and private pay patients, and more. The key is to recognize warning signs before they get out of control or too far advanced. Preventive help is much easier than recovery. Being open and honest in communication to teens is extremely valuable, as well as lending a listening ear when they need to talk. Much of what happens during adolescence is due to changes going on mentally, socially, and physically with teens. Most often, they are confused and afraid of all the things happening to them at once and feel they have no one to talk to about their concerns. The teen adage that parents and all authority is bad comes largely from the impressions they get when those individuals who are in charge don't take time to listen to the teen angst happening all around them. Parents need as much counseling as teenagers, and even more help in many cases.

According to ChristianityToday.com, what teens want is real-world advice, some choice words for life. You'll find plenty of 'em in Proverbs—wise sayings that'll guide you and your teenager through just about anything life might throw your way. The book is packed with good advice. So, from Proverbs, here's a Top 10 List of wise words for life that will definitely help when faced with tough decisions about spiritual, mental, and physical health issues:

1.) Guidance (Proverbs 3:5-6)--"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." This might be the most quoted passage in all of Proverbs; maybe you've memorized it. But wherever you're headed in life, these words will always remind you who directs your steps.

2.) Discernment (Proverbs 14:12)--"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." Yes, that verse ends on kind of a downer. But you get the point: Sometimes something seems right, but it might be the wrong choice after all. That's why we've always got to ask God to help us make wise decisions.

3.) Confidence (Proverbs 3:25-26)--"Have no fear of sudden disaster, or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared." Finishing high school can be kind of scary. Teens might not feel as confident as they did before. But remember: "The Lord will be your confidence."

4.) Work (Proverbs 6:6-9)--"Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?" Life lessons from an ant? Yep. Ants might be the hardest-working critters alive. They're always busy, always planning ahead. Being on your own—whether in college or at a full-time job—is hard work. It's tempting to get lazy—especially in college, where it's easy to sleep through those early-morning classes. Mom won't be there to tell you, for the 14th time, to get out of bed; there will be "no commander, no overseer or ruler." You'll have to kick yourself into gear, because nobody else will do it for you.

5.) Relationships (Proverbs 12:26)--"A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.Here's a great verse on choosing friends wisely." As you begin to develop new friendships after high school, ask God to point you to people who won't lead you astray.

6.) Sexual purity (Prov. 6:25-26, 28)--"Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes, for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life. … Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched?" You might be saying, "Prostitutes and adultery? That doesn't apply to me." But these verses are about much more than that. They're about the strong temptation of sex, a temptation that affects us all. This passage clearly says sex outside of marriage is also outside of God's perfect plan. When we violate that plan, we walk "on hot coals"—and get burned.

7.) Money (Proverbs 11:28)--"Whoever trusts in riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf." Whether you're off to college or a job, it's easy to think that money will bring happiness or solve your problems. But the Bible is clear that money doesn't do those things. If you wanna "thrive like a green leaf," pursue righteousness, not riches.

8.) Parents (Proverbs 23:22, 25)--"Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. … May your father and mother be glad; may she who gave you birth rejoice!" It's perfectly natural to want independence—and, ultimately, to break away from Mom and Dad. But don't rush that process. Even when you're on your own, your parents are still your parents and deserve your respect. Do what you can to make them proud and glad you're their kid.

9.) Compassion (Proverbs 19:17)--"He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done." We all tend to get so caught up in our own lives that we sometimes forget there are hurting people all around us. But God always wants us to share his great love with others. Volunteer with a local ministry. Take a short-term missions trip. Make time to reach out and touch someone.

10.) The Future (Proverbs 23:18)--"There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off." You're probably wondering what your future holds. But this verse says you don't have to worry about it: If you follow God, he'll take care of it—and he'll take care of you. Nothing can cut you off from his love. He will carry you through, all the way.

Great tips for life, whether you're a teen or not.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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