One of the
most important things individuals and families can do to promote
good health is to make smart choices. Avoiding risky behaviors such
as using tobacco or drugs, or abusing alcohol - even driving without
a safety belt - can save lives and improve health. Behavioral
changes reduce the chance of illness or injury; even washing one's
hands regularly prevents the spread of many common illnesses and
Misuse and abuse
of alcohol continue to be a problem in this country. Alcoholic
beverages supply calories but few nutrients and are harmful when
consumed in excess. People who should not drink at all include
children, adolescents, pregnant women, and individuals who cannot
restrict their drinking to moderate levels. Having more than one
drink per day for women or more than two drinks per day for men can
raise the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and some forms of
cancer. American adults who drink should use alcohol responsibly in
all social and recreational settings. The effects of alcohol abuse
can be devastating, from adverse health consequences, to domestic
abuse, to drinking and driving.
Tobacco use is
the single most preventable cause of death and disease in the United
States, causing more than 440,000 premature deaths annually during
1995-1999. Smoking can cause chronic lung disease, coronary heart
disease, and stroke. Smoking has also been linked to cancer of the
lungs, larynx, esophagus, mouth, and bladder. In addition, smoking
contributes to cancer of the cervix, pancreas, and kidneys.
Smokeless tobacco and cigars also have deadly consequences,
including lung, larynx, esophageal, and mouth cancer. Aggressive and
sustained anti-smoking programs prevent and reduce smoking and many
states have successful efforts underway.
use may also cause many of the same respiratory problems as regular
tobacco use. Some of the respiratory problems associated with
marijuana use include daily cough and phlegm, symptoms of chronic
bronchitis, and more frequent chest colds. Continuing to smoke
marijuana can lead to abnormal functioning of lung tissue. Research
shows that marijuana harms the brain, heart, lungs, and immune
system and limits learning, memory perception, judgement, and the
ability to drive an automobile. Any illegal drug possession or use
should not be tolerated. More parents need to learn about the power
of preventing youth drug abuse.
behavioral changes save lives as well. For example, handwashing has
been show to be a fundamental factor in preventing the spread of
infections. One study of school children found that those who washed
their hands four times a day had fewer sick days due to respiratory
illness and fewer days lost because of stomach upset.
people needlessly die in traffic accidents yearly because they do
not use safety belts. Seat belts are the most effective means of
reducing fatalities and serious injuries in a traffic accident. In
fact, seat belts save over 10,000 lives in America every year.
Appropriate bicycle safety measures could also reduce the 690
fatalities and 51,000 traffic-related injuries that occur every
year. Bike helmets reduce head injury risk by 85 percent. These are
smart choices Americans can make that prevent injuries and death.
to you by the Executive Office of the President and the Department
of Health and Human Services.
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