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10 Health Tips for College Students

By Dr. Garry A. Rayant

Health tips for college students.

It’s not just tattoos that can end up being permanent reminders of temporary emotions. You’ve probably heard of the legendary “Freshman 15,” a phrase used to describe the extra pounds that are often accrued by college newbies. As it turns out, the poor dietary choices underlying the “Freshman 15” are big risks to your oral, as well as your general, health. Whether or not you are watching your weight, there are other important things to know about staying healthy — in college and beyond.

There is currently an obesity epidemic that goes beyond the area of your campus — it includes the whole of the USA. Recent research puts the blame squarely on sugar. Obesity, as it turns out, is largely an addiction to sugar, pure and simple. It’s also showing up as metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions including obesity, diabetes, high triglycerides/low HDL, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease, which increases your chance of early death — and that’s beginning to play now, on a campus near you. Not only does this particular addiction lead to the Freshman 15, but it also causes really “decadent decay” — mouthfuls of cavities that you won’t even know are there until you visit your dentist.

The Surgeon General has clearly stated that, “You can’t have general health without oral health” and vice versa. Nevertheless, “Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘N Roll” are alive and well. So be careful what you put in your mouth and when!

Be aware of the consequences of your actions, and be responsible for them. Here are the top ten tips — Do’s and Don’ts to help you stay healthy.

Do remember the “BIG E’s”

  • Eat Real Food — a healthy, balanced, nutritionally sound diet = low sugar / high fiber.
  • Exercise regularly — it keeps your body functioning efficiently, and makes you feel good.
  • Sleep — get enough of it. There’s a reason there are two EE’s in sleep — because it’s really important!

Don’t binge on sugary snacks or consume sugar between meals

  • There’s a really Fat Chance* they’ll do you no good at all, and they’ll make you fat.
  • Don’t forget — you can be thin on the outside, but still addicted to sugar on the inside — and get diabetes.
  • If you skip meals, you may be more likely to seek a quick sugar fix.
  • Remember, sugar goes by many other names — 56 of them at last count!
  • If it comes out of a can or a package whose label you can’t read or understand — don’t eat it!
  • Desserts is “stressed” spelled backwards.

Don’t abuse alcohol or smoke

  • Alcohol is not a food group; it makes you fat as well as act stupid.
  • Excess alcohol destroys your liver as well as damages your brain — and it dehydrates you.
  • Both alcohol and smoking cause dry mouth — increasing your risk for tooth decay.
  • Smoking is also a known risk for cancer, cardiovascular and gum disease, and more.
  • Tea, coffee, red wine, and smoking can all stain your teeth.

Do snack on healthy foods

  • If you’re craving something sweet, eat fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, or cheese.
  • Chew gum sweetened with xylitol (a natural anti-tooth decay agent).
  • Energize yourself; take an exercise break like a head-clearing walk around campus.
  • When times get tough and you need encouragement, call a friend — which sugar is not!

Do stay hydrated

  • Drink lots of water
  • Tap water across the United States is healthy and drinkable.
  • Carry a non-plastic, refillable water bottle with you.
  • Milk is good too.
  • Coffee and tea are OK if you need some caffeine but can be dehydrating — they give you a dry mouth and make you pee!

Don’t get an oral piercing or tattoo

  • Piercings — trendy bits of facial and tongue hardware may lead to gum recession, chipped teeth, as well as considerable pain, bleeding and infection on insertion.
  • They can leave permanent holes when removed.
  • Tattoos will distort and colors will fade as your skin changes over time.
  • Tattoos can be even more painful to remove.

Don’t drink sodas, juices or sports and energy drinks

  • Even diet sodas, which may spare you some calories, are very acidic.
  • They cause enamel erosion and tooth decay, especially when you drink them between meals — and they can also make you fat.
  • Don’t brush your teeth right after drinking them.
  • It takes your saliva 30-60 minutes to neutralize acid from a single sip of juice or soda.
  • Sipping soda throughout the day or night means your mouth is always acidic!

Do brush and floss every day

  • Use a soft toothbrush.
  • Be gentle, it doesn’t take pressure to remove biofilm (plaque) — the stuff that’s responsible for tooth decay and gum disease — that collects on teeth every day.
  • Remember, you don’t have to floss all your teeth — only the ones you want to keep!

Do practice safe sex

  • Oral sex carries the risk of contracting the human papilloma virus (HPV16) that causes venereal warts, and by the way,
  • Oral sex can also cause oral (and cervical) cancer.
  • A vaccine is available (for men and woman); ask about it at the campus health clinic.
  • Oral sex can infect your mouth with genital herpes and like true love — it lasts forever (although it can be managed).

Do have regular dental checkups

  • You may be more vulnerable to general and oral disease than you think — don’t wait ‘til it hurts.
  • Be a role model/activist for good (lifelong) health — form a group to go green/eat green.
  • Be safe, be healthy — your body and your teeth need to last you a lifetime — so look after them and they will look after you.