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Health Capsules
February 2010
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Fit Teens Succeed as Adults

Teens who are physically fit are more likely than other teens to achieve later success at college and work, a new study suggests. Teen fitness was also linked to a higher IQ.

Scientists looked at over 1.2 million men born in Sweden between 1950 and 1976. All had physical fitness and intelligence tests at age 18. The researchers compared this information to academic and lifestyle data in national databases.

They found that physical fitness in the 18-year-olds was strongly linked to scores on intelligence tests. Muscular strength, though, showed little connection to intelligence.

”Being fit means that you also have good heart and lung capacity and that your brain gets plenty of oxygen,” says study coauthor Dr. Michael Nilsson of the University of Gothenburg. “This may be one of the reasons why we can see a clear link with fitness, but not with muscular strength.”

To see if genes and upbringing were responsible, the researchers looked at a subset of twins in an NIH-funded database. The link between fitness and intelligence held even in identical twins.

Fit teens were also more likely to get a university degree later in life, and they landed better jobs—with higher pay or management responsibilities—up to 36 years later.

These findings point to the importance of encouraging physical fitness in teens. “This being the case, physical education is a subject that has an important place in schools,” says the study’s lead author, Dr. Maria Åberg of the University of Gothenburg.

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  Can’t See Certain Colors?

If you’ve headed off to work wearing one red sock and one green, maybe you’ve dressed in the dark—or maybe you have a color vision defect.

About 1 in every 76 Americans has a color vision defect, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The condition is usually inherited from your parents. Men are affected more often than women.

The defect affects cells in the back of the eye called cones, says Dr. Catherine Cukras, a staff clinician at NIH’s National Eye Institute (NEI).

Cones allow us to identify differences between colors. Each of the 3 types of cones is most sensitive to a particular color: red, green or blue. If any of the cone types are damaged or missing, you can’t distinguish between certain colors.

Most people who have color vision defects have trouble seeing differences among colors in the red-green range. Problems with colors in the blue-yellow range are less common. Even more rare is total color blindness, in which the eye can only recognize white, black and shades of gray.

The defects can vary from person to person. “For some, the differences among colors are just not as obvious as for people who have normal color vision,” Cukras says. “For others, different colors can actually look exactly the same.”

Though color vision defects might be inconvenient for people whose careers depend on discerning colors—such as decorators—most people can adapt relatively easily.

“It just means that a lot of men have women pick out their ties,” Cukras says.

You can learn more about eye health from NEI’s “Ask the Doctor” series at



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The Heart Truth

Friday, February 5, 2010, is National Wear Red Day, when you can wear something red to help raise awareness about the dangers of heart disease in women. Get involved at The Heart Truth web site, and learn more about lowering your heart disease risk.

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