The Perspective
   
WINTER 2014/2015

Healthy Steps to a Healthy New Year and New You

The month of February is appropriately associated with matters of the heart, but we're not just talking candy hearts and poetry-laced professions of love, it's the month we recognize as American Heart Month. It's a time to show yourself some love by learning more about the leading risk factors for heart disease and stroke and taking steps to become more "heart healthy" for yourself and your loved ones.

Cardiovascular disease includes heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure, and is the leading killer of men and women in the United States. So instead of making a New Year's resolution, make a "New Life Resolution" with the help of the assistance of My Life Check®, an on-line resource designed by the American Heart Association. My Life Check® is designed to help users improve their health on how to make simple, inexpensive changes to their lives that will greatly benefit their overall health.

These changes are outlined in seven steps – Life's Simple 7™:

  • Get active
  • Control cholesterol
  • Eat better
  • Manage blood pressure
  • Lose weight
  • Reduce blood sugar
  • Stop smoking

Start by incorporating one or two of these changes into your routine. My Life Check® also includes an assessment that allows you to evaluate how you are doing in each category, including recommended areas of focus, and a personal action plan. The full program is available at: mylifecheck.heart.org. Each of these seven goals are important steps to improving your health.

One of the steps in particular, stopping smoking, is a popular New Year's resolution and deserving of extra attention in order to clear up misconceptions about what may be perceived as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes or an approved cessation method – electronic cigarettes.

E-cigarette manufacturers cannot market their products as cessation devices without being subject to regulatory oversight by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Currently only e-cigarettes that are marketed for therapeutic purposes are regulated by the FDA. However, the FDA has issued a proposed rule that would extend the agency's authority to e-cigarettes as well as cigars, pipe tobacco and other products. Upon finalization of the rule, the FDA would be able to promulgate regulations to include age restrictions and rigorous scientific review of new tobacco products.

Teen e-Cigarette Use Graph

This lack of oversight is troubling on another front – the rising use by teens of these products, which currently are not restricted by age unless regulated at the state or local level. A recent survey of teen substance abuse found that significantly more young people reported using e-cigarettes more than traditional cigarettes in 2014. This is first national survey to show teen use of e-cigarettes surpassing the use of regular cigarettes. It also supports the findings of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) 2013 National Youth Tobacco Survey, which reported that more than a quarter of a million youth who had never smoked a cigarette used e-cigarettes in 2013, a three-fold increase from approximately 79,000 in 2011, to more than 263,000 in 2013. Health concerns extend to the potential adverse effects of nicotine on a young person's brain development, as well as children and non-tobacco users being exposed to nicotine in the secondhand aerosol released in public indoor areas, and the renormalization of tobacco use.

Given the alarming rates in which teens are trying e-cigarettes, if these products do serve as introductory products for young people to traditional tobacco products, this will be a tremendous setback for the health gains made in terms of tobacco control and ultimately, the resulting cardiovascular diseases. For tried and true methods of staying on track with you New Year's resolution and Step 7 of the American Heart Association's Life's Simple 7™ plan call the Nevada Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or 1-800-784-8669, or access the Quitline website for more information at www.NevadaTobaccoQuitline.com. Additional tobacco resources are available on the Southern Nevada Health District's website: www.GetHealthyClarkCounty.org.

 

To find out more about the state of tobacco control and key policies that can help promote the health status of Nevada residents, access the American Lung Association's State of Tobacco Control report.

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