Tips for Young Adults: Staying Healthy

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Young adulthood can certainly be a wonderful time of life! Between the ages of 20 and 29, most people are at, or near, their physical peak; many have completed, or are close to completing, their formal education and are well on their way toward becoming independent; and some have found their life partner and have started a family. However, there are also challenges associated with life in your 20s.

It's important to stay healthy—physically, mentally and emotionally—in your 20s and learn how to deal with the issues and concerns many of us face during this decade. Doing so can go a long way toward ensuring good health later in life.

Good Health in Your 20s

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For young adults, staying healthy commonly involves making good lifestyle choices and decisions, taking precautions to avoid accidental injuries, and following recommendations for preventative care. Healthy tips for people in their 20s include the following:

A Healthy Lifestyle in Your 20s

Eat a healthy diet to reduce your risk for heart disease and other chronic health problems like diabetes.

Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight by limiting fast foods and processed foods and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low- or nonfat dairy products.

Important nutrients that young adults often overlook include protein, calcium, potassium, healthy omega-3 fats, and folic acid (for women during their reproductive years). Pay attention to portion sizes and get in the habit of chewing your food slowly. Take supplements as recommended by your health care provider.

Do not smoke or use tobacco products. Nicotine is highly addictive and smoking and tobacco use are associated with a number of serious health problems. Also, make sure your home has working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor and in every bedroom.

Avoid illegal substances and drink alcohol only in moderation (no more than 2 drinks per day for men, 1 for women). Never drink and drive or get into a vehicle with an impaired driver.

Always wear your seat belt and follow laws regarding cell phone use while driving. If you ride a motorcycle or recreational vehicle, be sure to wear a helmet.

Get enough sleep. This may be easier said than done for many young adults, but studies confirm that a proper amount of sleep at every age is essential to maintain good health.

Preventing Health Problems in Your 20s (and Beyond)

Bone mass peaks in your 20s so it's important to build bone through weight-bearing exercises like hiking, running and strength-training to reduce your risk for osteoporosis later in life. Get regular exercise—at least 30 minutes on most days of the week—and vary your exercise program for the best results.

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Protect your skin and eyes from the damaging effects of the sun to reduce your risk for conditions like skin cancer, vision problems and premature aging of the skin. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 that blocks UVA and UVB rays whenever you spend time in the sun.

Avoid indoor tanning salons. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves and sunglasses, and stay in the shade as much as possible, especially between 10 am and 4 pm, for additional sun protection.

Practice good hygiene. Shower or bathe daily, brush and floss your teeth twice a day, and follow recommendations for preventing illnesses, such as washing your hands frequently.

Find a primary care provider and medical specialists (e.g., dermatologist, gynecologist, dentist, eye doctor) for routine health care. If you need help finding a provider in your area, contact your health insurance company or a local hospital or medical society. Family members, friends and co-workers also can be good resources.

Talk to your parents and other relatives about your family health history to help determine your genetic risk for certain medical conditions. Share information about your family and personal medical history with your health care providers. Be honest about lifestyle factors and habits that affect your health.

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Routine Health Care Recommendations in Your 20s

Follow recommendations for preventive care and screenings.

  • Have a medical check-up at least every 2 years, or as recommended by your health care provider, including blood pressure screening.
  • For women: Have a gynecological exam, clinical breast exam and Pap test every 2 to 3 years, or as recommended by your health care provider. Prenatal care is important--contact your doctor if you think you may be pregnant.
  • For men: Have clinical testicular exam as recommended by your health care provider and perform regular self-exams.
  • If you are at increased risk for high cholesterol due to family history, lifestyle factors or other medical conditions, have a cholesterol screening in your 20s.
  • Have a dental exam and cleaning every 6 to 12 months, or as recommended.
  • See a dermatologist as recommended to screen for skin cancer and treat existing skin conditions like acne or eczema.
  • Calculate your body mass index (BMI). A healthy BMI is below 25.
  • Get regular comprehensive eye exams as recommended by your vision specialist.
  • Have recommended immunizations (may include influenza [flu] vaccine, hepatitis vaccines, HPV vaccine, MMR, meningococcal vaccine, pneumococcal vaccine, tetanus and varicella [chickenpox]).

Reducing Risks in Your 20s

Take measures to prevent accidental injuries. Common causes for injury in people between the ages of 20 and 29 include:

  • Motor vehicle crashes
  • Falls
  • Overexertion
  • Sports- and recreation-related injuries (including water-related injuries and drowning)
  • Attempted suicide and homicide (about half involve firearms)
  • Work-related accidents
  • Accidental poisoning and drug overdose (Drug overdose is the leading cause of injury death in the United States, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] in February 2016.)
  • Food poisoning
  • Violence (intimate partner violence, date/acquaintance rape, sexual assault)

Special Concerns in Your 20s

Take care of your sexual health. If you are sexually active, talk to your health care provider about contraception, safer sex, sexually transmitted diseases, STD prevention and HIV screening.

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Take care of your mental health. Your 20s can bring on significant life changes and new responsibilities—that first "real" job, moving out on your own for the first time, additional expenses and bills to pay, and many others. These changes can be very exciting, but they are often stressful too. Take steps to reduce stress in your life.

Talk to a qualified health care provider if you experience symptoms of depression, including feeling down, sad or hopeless for an unusually long period of time, or losing interest in things you usually enjoy.

Here are some other ways to take care of your emotional health in your 20s (and beyond):

  • If you aren't happy with your current situation—home, job, career path, relationship(s)—take steps to change it. Sure, you may not have all you've ever dreamed of right now—few people do as young adults—but you can continue to work towards fulfilling your goals.
  • Don't let yourself become overwhelmed with the idea that you must "have it all."
  • Develop a financial plan and a budget ”and stick to it. Find a way to save at least a little bit each month and avoid credit card debt.
  • Continue to develop your independence and make your own decisions. Seek advice from people you trust and ask for help if you really need it.
  • Keep learning and take on new challenges.
  • Create balance in your life.
  • Build strong friendships and relationships with people who have similar core values.
  • Make time for things you enjoy.
  • Explore a spiritual path.
  • Be thankful for everything good in your life.
  • Give back through community service projects or volunteer work.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 26 Jun 2012

Last Modified: 09 Feb 2016