Just don't do it

You are fifteen, you've just been asked on your first date and the world is your oyster. You're going to live forever, right? Wrong. Even though health is often the last thing on your mind at this age, there are danger zones of which you need to take note.

Fun in the sun. The sun can be vicious and the ultraviolet rays of the sun can do real damage to your skin. If you have a light skin, stay out of the sun or wear a high-factor sunblock. You don't want skin cancer or look like a saddlebag with eyes by age thirty. And it's not that far away.

Booze cruise. In the age group 10 – 14 motor vehicle accidents is the leading cause of unnatural deaths. And many accidents are the result of drunken driving. The bottom line is simply, don't get into a car with a drunk driver – chances are you will have a higher chance of surviving if you walk home. Just don't do it alone.

Gun Run. Have nothing to do with these – don't play with them, don't take them out of the safe or wherever they are kept. Playing around with guns causes the deaths of many teens every year. Just don't go there.

Flab is not fab. A few extra pounds won't be the end of the world, but if you're piling on the kilo's, do something about it. Not because it might affect your social life, but because more and more teens are struggling with Type 2 diabetes. Unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise can lead to this.

Where there's smoke. Don't go down this road. If you are considering smoking, pay a visit to the local lung cancer ward to see just how cool smoking is in the long run. It is so much less hassle just never to start than to try for years to stop.

Aids anguish. Don't even consider having unprotected sex. Gone are the days where the worst thing that could happen was an unplanned pregnancy.

Diet dramas. It is much better to eat healthily than to go on starvation diets, followed by binges and more unwanted kilos. All you're doing is slowing down your metabolism, because your body is going into starvation mode. This will make future weight loss all the more difficult. Stay away from diet pills, diets that make impossible promises or diets that recommend silly things, like only eating one type of food. These just don't work and damage your health.

Relationships. If these cause you more anguish than joy, get out. Do not allow anyone to treat you badly. OK, all relationships have their ups and downs, but if it is constantly more horrible than it is pleasant, it is time to get out. It is better to be happy by yourself than to be badly treated in a relationship.

Dealing with depression. Adolescence is a difficult time in one's life. Your hormones are going crazy and it is a time of great adaptation. No wonder you feel depressed every now and then. But if it gets to appoint where you permanently feel like that, maybe it's time to speak to your GP, or to the school counsellor and get some help. Hey, we're not living in the fourteenth century anymore!

Drugs. Well, what can I say that you don't know already? Just that everyone has the idea that they will never land up dead in a public toilet – it's something that happens to other people, right? Wrong. No one ever plans to become an addict and they always think they have control over it, but they don't. The best thing is just not to go there.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated June 2010)

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