Health Buzz: No Safe Level of Tobacco

Smile to improve your mood; even kids on sports teams don't get enough exercise. improve.


 One Cigarette Is One Too Many, Surgeon General Warns

 Think one whiff of tobacco smoke is harmless? That brief exposure is all it takes to cause immediate lung and DNA damage, U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin said Thursday in a new report on tobacco—the first of its kind in four years. While we don't need to run from the guy smoking next to us on the street, regular smokers do need to be aware that every cigarette they puff causes immediate health ramifications, the report emphasizes. Cigarette smoke attacks cells and inflames tissue in ways that can lead to serious illness and death, and it damages almost every organ in the body; in smokers with underlying heart disease, the report says, one cigarette can cause a heart attack. The report links cigarettes to 13 types of cancer, including esophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidney, and bladder. And recent changes in design and ingredients have made the products increasingly addictive: Cigarettes now deliver nicotine more quickly and efficiently than they did in decades past. "Casual smokers think they are improving their health by cutting back, but there is no safe level," said Tim McAfee, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Office on Smoking and Health, in an interview with CNN. He was one of more than 60 scientists to contribute to the 700-page report. "[Smoking] affects people's DNA immediately, and their heart and blood vessels literally seconds to minutes after being exposed."

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  •  Smile to Improve Your Mood

     Research suggests smiling doesn't just spread sunshine; it strongly affects your mood. In February 2009, psychologists at the University of Cardiff in Wales found that people whose frown muscles were deadened by Botox were happier and less anxious than those who hadn't had the wrinkle treatment. Another study, appearing in the May 2008 issue of the Journal of Pain, revealed that people who grimace during uncomfortable procedures feel more pain than those who don't, Courtney Rubin writes for U.S. News.

     But a 2005 study by Hewlett Packard and the British Dental Health Foundation was perhaps the most intriguing. Researchers measuring brain and heart activity found that volunteers were as stimulated by imagining someone they loved smiling at them as they were by being told they'd won a cash prize. David Lewis, a psychologist and director of research at Mindlab International in Brighton, England, which conducted the study, says a warm smile can create a "halo" effect, helping us "feel more optimistic, more positive, and more motivated." [Read more: Smile to Improve Your Mood.]

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    •  Even Kids on Sports Teams Don't Get Enough Exercise

       Only about 25 percent of children who play organized sports get the government-recommended 60 minutes of activity each day, according to new research in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The children studied were active for 45 minutes on average—which is not so bad—but the young athletes spent 30 minutes standing around or sitting during each practice.

       Since about 44 million kids take part in organized sports, that's a lot of children who aren't getting the workout they need, writes U.S. News contributor Nancy Shute. (That's especially true, since many schools have cut back PE, or eliminated it altogether.) Leagues and schools could improve the situation by emphasizing participation over competition, sponsoring teams for kids of all ages and skill levels, and holding more practices, according to the authors of the study, who are from San Diego State University and the University of California-San Diego. They also suggest coaches have the kids were pedometers or accelerometers during practice to gauge their activity level, as the researchers did in the study. [Read more: Even Kids on Sports Teams Don't Get Enough Exercise.]

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