Health is an integral part of existence as a human being. Health is related to every aspect of people’s daily lives. If people do not have basic health, they are not able to perform the tasks they would like to. Without health, people have nothing. Unfortunately it is often not until health is lost that people realize how important it is to the enjoyment of life. Health is determined by many uncontrollable factors such as genetic diseases and injury and others we can control, such as diet and exercise habits. It is often the controllable habits that severely impair or enhance people’s overall health. Health affects the capabilities of people’s bodies and minds and it is believed that the health of the body is a great indicator of the cognitive ability of the mind. A healthy body is necessary for an individual to perform physical activities as well as mentally stimulating ones. The cognitive abilities of the mind are directly related to the body’s physical abilities and vice versa. When an individual is not healthy, he or she cannot perform cognitive tasks as well (e.g., Blom-Hoffman & DuPaul, 2003). Academic work at the college level involves rigorous cognitive ability as well as the physical stamina that is needed to work long hours. College grade point average measures a student’s ability to perform academic tasks oriented around cognitive ability. When a student is not in a healthy physical condition, he or she is not able to complete the course requirements, and grades suffer. One behavior that is related to health, and consequently academic performance, is smoking. Smoking has been found to have extremely detrimental effects on health (American Heart Association, 2001). The American Heart Association (2001) has published its findings on the effects of smoking in a reader friendly packet aimed at discouraging smoking. In the United States there are over 400,000 deaths annually caused by smoking. Smoking affects the entire body by polluting vital organs such as the lungs and heart. Nicotine found in cigarette smoke causes the heart rate and blood pressure to increase (American Heart Association, 2001). Simultaneously, the carbon monoxide found in cigarette smoke eats up the oxygen in the blood stream reducing the availability of oxygen to the heart, which is pumping at an increased rate due to the nicotine. In addition, smoke increases a person’s likelihood of forming blood clots. Blood Clots, like carbon monoxide, restrict the amount of oxygenated blood flowing to the heart. It is due to these causes that people are two times as likely to have a heart attack when they smoke more than 20 cigarettes per day than people who do not smoke (American Heart Association, 2001). It is likely that a lack of oxygen in the blood supply would compromise brain function and over time may reduce a person’s cognitive ability. Another element of smoking that may challenge mental ability is nicotine addiction. Addiction occurs when the body forms a dependence on a substance. Fergusson, Goodwin, and Horwood (2003) found that nicotine addiction increases the probability of depression among people studied for a period of 21 years. Symptoms of withdrawal, including increased heart rate and respiration, perspiration, and irritability, occur when a person does not receive the necessary amount of the addictive substance (Prokhorov et al., 2001). These symptoms can strain the body and mind and distract from everyday activities. Prokhorov et al. (2001) found that nicotine withdrawal symptoms included craving cigarettes, trouble sleeping, irritability, anger, restlessness, trouble concentrating, increased hunger, and weight gain. The study also found feelings of sadness and depression in high school students with a history of nicotine dependence (Prokhorov et al, 2001). Such symptoms may distract students from their academic work. Academic struggles due to nicotine addiction in high school students will most likely carry over into...
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