Teen alcohol abuse

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The misuse of alcohol by teenagers is on the rise. There are many health risks which occur as a result of alcohol such as impaired brain development, injury or death. The abuse of alcohol has also been slowly increasing the rates of drink-driving, unsafe sex and use of drugs. Although underage alcohol consumption can be considered socially acceptable for some, many are not aware of the dangerous side-effects and serious consequences.

Many are unaware that people who consume alcohol under the age of 25 are at a high risk of impaired brain development. Teenagers are particularly at risk as their brains are still developing. During the teenage years the frontal lobe and hippocampus go through dramatic changes. These areas of the brain are linked to motivation, impulse control and addiction. Excessive alcohol consumption also interferes with vitamin B absorption, which prevents the brain from working properly. If the excessive drinking is long-term it may lead to a range of disorders. This can include symptoms such as memory-loss and balance problems. So why is underage drinking acceptable? It shouldn’t be.

It is widely recognized that alcohol impairs judgement. This is very common with the topic of unsafe sex. The risks associated with alcohol and sexual practices include intercourse without a condom, exposure to sexually transmitted infections (STI’s), possible pregnancy or rape. If this was happening to your child, friend, relative or anyone in relation to you, would you be worried?

It is more likely that teenagers are going to take risks when drinking. This leads to many deaths, particularly on the roads with drink-driving and drink walkers. Other significant factors which can lead to death or serious injury include drowning, drug overdose suicide or fighting. So what leads teenagers to drink when there are serious consequences? It is mainly caused by peer pressure and the influence of adults, and yes, this does mean parents! Children learn by imitation, and the most influential role in a child’s life is their parents. If parents do not demonstrate sensible drinking behaviours it is more likely that when their child is introduced to alcohol they are going to drink excessively.

Misuse of alcohol is often linked to the use of drugs. Not to mention that many drugs are illegal, but the consumption of alcohol and drugs together can suppress the central nervous system. This causes breathing and heart rate to decrease to a dangerous level, resulting in an overdose. It is also linked to risk taking, putting the consumer and others in potential danger.

The rise in teen alcohol consumption is a topic that will never be at rest, but there are things we can do to help prevent the consequences caused by the abuse of alcohol. It starts at an early age; parents should monitor their drinking and become a positive role model for their children. Information should also be provided by schools to increase the knowledge on the effects of alcohol for teenagers in today’s society. It’s not too late to make it safer for our teens.

The dangers of food poisoning

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I am sure we have all heard of food poisoning, but do we really know what the common causes actually are? Many different types of food can make you sick. When the handling of food is poor it can contain harmful bacteria and viruses which lead to food poisoning. Sometimes the food may not look, taste or smell any different than it normally does but in reality you could be consuming more than you bargained for.

The risk of food poisoning can be minimized by taking simple precautions. Some of the more common high risk foods include raw and cooked meat (such as chicken), dairy products, eggs, prepared salads, smallgoods (ham, salami), seafood and ready-to-eat meals. It is important that food is stored outside the ‘temperature danger zone’. The danger zone is from 5 to 60 degrees Celsius, which is where the bacteria grows the fastest. This means that we need to keep food either very hot or very cold in order to reduce the risk of food poisoning.

When preparing food it is important to separate meats from fresh food, as well as raw and cooked meat. If they are not separated, it is known as cross contamination. This occurs when a bacteria or virus is transferred from a contaminated food to a non-contaminated. This happens more frequently when using raw and cooked meat together or raw meat and fresh foods together. This can be minimized by using separate chopping boards, knives and plates when preparing food.

For obvious reasons we should be washing our hands before handling food, after touching raw meat or unwashed vegetables, after using the bathroom, blowing your nose or touching a pet. These are small factors that people often forget. You should be thoroughly washing your hands with hot water and lathered soap, then drying your hands completely with a clean towel. It is just a simple step to reducing the risks of bacteria.

Lastly, the storing of food is an important step to avoid food poisoning and it is often done incorrectly, both in the household and other environments such as supermarkets and restaurants. In your fridge, make sure you are separating raw food from cooked food. Store the raw meat at the bottom of the fridge to reduce chances of dripping juices onto other foods. Also check the temperature of your fridge, as it should be below 5°C and your freezer at below -15°C. Cover all foods with lids or plastic wraps and don’t use or store any opened tin cans.

By following these simple steps we can all reduce the risk of food poisoning in our homes. Make sure you are preparing your food safely, using clean utensils and storing your food correctly in safe conditions. Did you know that severe cases of food poisoning can kill? Don’t take these precautions lightly , bacteria can multiply very quickly and it won’t stop for anyone.

For more information on the prevention of food head to http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Food_poisoning_how_to_prevent_it

One for the tea drinkers

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Here’s to the hidden health benefits of drinking tea!

Black tea

Consumption of black tea is known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart disease due to its abundance of antioxidants. Black tea also contain tannins and fluorides that help to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Green tea

Green tea lowers cholesterol, aids digestion, reliefs bloating and prevents aging. It also assists with weight loss by increasing your metabolic rate. Green tea also has particularly high levels of antioxidants, which help protect against cancer and other diseases as well as prevention of acne.

White tea

White tea is the least processed of all teas. Due to it’s minimal processing it is believed to have even higher levels of antioxidants than other teas.

Rooibos tea

Made from the rooibos plant, it is not strictly a tea, as it is non-caffeinated. It is high in vitamin C and antioxidants and is often used to treat insomnia, hay fever and skin irritations. It is known to be good for reducing inflammation and improvement of skin conditions such as eczema.

Peppermint tea

Peppermint tea is great for relaxation ad stress relief. It has also been known for resolving digestive problems and warding off the common cold.

Oolong tea

Oolong is great for relieving stress and is most commonly known for it’s metabolism boosting properties.

Rose hip tea

Rose hip has a high source of vitamin C and is a good remedy for the common cold.

What are you really drinking?

Energy drinks are growing in popularity and so are the side effects. In moderation, side effects are not a problem for most consumers of energy drinks, but let me ask you, before consuming an energy drink do you read the label? Are you really aware of what you are putting in to your body? Energy drinks filled with artificial sweeteners, caffeine and other harmful ingredients in which I am sure most people didn’t even know existed. Do the ingredients ephedrine, taurine, ginseng,  carnitine, creatine, inositol or ginkgo biloba sound familiar? I highly doubt it.

The aim of energy drinks is to give you a false sense of alertness and an ‘energy boost’. This boost lasts for a short period of time which will then spiral downwards and lead you to crash. The high amount of caffeine in these drinks can lead to overstimulation of the heart and nervous system. Does this sound familiar?  It also leads to dehydration, headaches and weight gain due to such high levels of sugar content. Dehydration is also a common cause of tiredness, so are these energy drinks really making you feel uplifted?

Now wouldn’t it have been better just to get a good sleep? Energy drinks are made up of two main ingredients: caffeine and sugar. One energy drink has the same amount of caffeine as a single cup of coffee (around 80mg), let alone the added sugars. Caffeine works by blocking the effects of adenosine, a brain chemical involved in sleep. This causes your brain into thinking your body is in an emergency. The body then goes into the ‘fight or flight’ response by releasing adrenaline. It also affects the levels of dopamine, the pleasure centre of the brain. All of these physical changes cause you to feel as though you have more energy. No wonder they cause this so called ‘energy boost’.

Are you having second thoughts yet? In moderation energy drinks are considered to be safe, but I can only stress that you think twice before you reach for the energy drink as fast and easy energy boost. There are healthier, safer options out there.

Is the vegetarian diet for you?

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We all know the vegetarian diet is a good way to get back to the basics by consuming larger amounts of natural, high nutrient foods. If you are considering vegetarianism I suggest that you take both risks and benefits into account. Whilst a vegetarian diet can increase leanness, lower blood pressure and cholesterol as well as decreasing the risk of some cancers there are also risks involved. The diet requirements of vegetarianism can lead to deficiencies and other log term problems.

Vegetarianism can lead to nutrition deficiencies such as vitamin B-12, zinc, calcium, iron and some essential amino acids. Iron is a especially important dietary mineral that helps provide energy for daily life by transporting oxygen to the blood, without sufficient levels of iron it can lead to fatigue and low levels of immunity. This is why vegetarians often require supplements to keep their bodies in balance.

Although there are many other risks that are included with vegetarianism there are also health benefits. Vegetarian diets contain less fats and cholesterol and have higher levels of fiber. This is due to the fact that a vegetarian diet does not include any meat products. Vegetarians are also known to have a lower risk of obesity, as the higher levels of intake of dietary fiber decreases the absorption of food.

If you are considering a vegetarian diet it is important that you take both risks and benefits into consideration. As I didn’t cover a wide range of risks and benefits I suggest that you make sure you do your background research and prepare your meals carefully.