Our 20s is a time for learning, experimenting, and figuring out our lives, but it's also a time to start thinking seriously about our health. Unfortunately, with all this trial and error, there are bound to be a number of common health mistakes in our 20s, and although it's OK to still be figuring it out, it can't hurt to be knowledgable about what is harming versus helping our health. You definitely don't have to be perfect, but you want to make sure you pay attention to the crucial aspects of your wellbeing that could make a difference in the long run.
"The reason why it’s important to really attend to your health in your 20s is that it lays down the building blocks for the rest of your life in your health," says Dr. Jennifer Caudle, family physician and Assistant Professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, over email. "Getting into your healthy habits and knowing your own medical history as well as your family's medical history will help you with decades after as well."
If you're a twenty-something and want to start paying more attention to your health, consider these 11 health mistakes many women make in their 20s and how you can fix them.
1. Spending Too Much Time In The Sun
"Using tanning beds or sunning and not being sun safe is one of the biggest mistakes people make in their 20s, and they often regret that when they’re older," says Caudle. "Sun damage not only increases the risk of skin cancer, but it also causes premature aging of the skin."
"Not everyone starts smoking when they are a teenager, but I have a good number of patients who started in their 20s," says Caudles. "It's one of those habits that’s hard for people to kick in general." Even just social smoking can have negative effects, as researchers have not yet figured out a safe amount of smoking, and many "casual" smokers end up smoking for many more years than they intend to, according to WebMD. "The best thing to do is to never ever start," says Caudle.
3. Unsafe Sex
"This is probably part of our sexual culture where sex is everywhere and there is pressure to have sex and do it a certain way, but women should practice safe sex," says Caudle. "This means being open and honest with your partner, getting tested, and using protection."
4. Not Sleeping Enough
It's easy to get stay up late seeing friends or even working, but that lack of sleep can affect more than just your energy levels in the morning. Not only can it lead to chronic medical issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, it can also worsen your stress and lead to emotional problems like anxiety or depression, according to Healthline.
5. Hating Your Body
There's nothing positive about spending your 20s hating the skin your in, and it's important to have a healthy body image. "Healthy means different things for different people," says Caudle. "Healthy is not just a size. Working to be healthy from the inside is such an important thing to do."
6. Neglecting Your Mental Health
"Anxiety and depression is so huge and so prevalent," says Caudle. "A lot of young adults feel isolated or struggle with feeling sad or anxious. I want to recommend to any women out there: if you are wondering if how you feel is normal or if it is getting in the way of how you live, that's enough of a reason to see a doctor or to talk to someone about it."
7. Spending Too Much Time On The Couch
There's no time like the present to get moving. In fact, a study from the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who exercised in their 20s were more fit in their 30s and 40s than those who were less active.
8. Getting Too Much Screen Time
We live in a technological world, and it can be hard to truly unplug. However, too much time on your cell phone and computer can not only make you depressed — if you're spending it on social media — but the light from these electronics can mess up your body's natural circadian rhythms and cause issues with your sleep and energy levels, according to multiple studies.
9. Eating All Your Meals Out
Life in your 20s can get hectic, which means a lot of people eat what is convenient or while they're on the go. This means you're likely consuming a higher amount of sodium, sugar, and other unhealthy ingredients that can wreak havoc on your health. Research from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that people who cook at home more often eat healthier and consume less unhealthy ingredients than those who eat most of their meals out.
10. Not Paying Attention To Your Fertility If You Want To Have Children One Day
According to a 2014 study in Fertility & Sterility, about 50 percent of reproductive age women have never discussed their reproductive health with a medical provider. "When I was really young, I was so clear focused on my career that I don't put enough thought into having a family, and I didn’t think strategically," says Caudle. "Fertility comes into play as we get older, and things do change." Even if you're not trying to have a family right now, talk with your doctor to ensure that you're taking the right steps to preserve your fertility.
11. Focusing On Only One Aspect Of Your Life
That being said, it's good to have balance in all aspects of your life and not put all your eggs in one basket. "Make sure you are not focused on solely one aspect of your life that you forget about others," says Caudle. "That could be a family early on and not thinking of career, or vice versa. This is all about balance. Whatever the thing is that women are focused on, make sure they are thinking well rounded about life as a whole."
It takes time, but paying attention to your health can help give you a better quality of life now and when you're older, and there's no better time to start adopting healthy habits than the present.
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