There's so much to focus on in your 20s — getting a job, graduating from college, moving to a new city — that taking care of your health can easily be neglected. Or it may seem like something you don't have to worry about since you're young.
But taking care of yourself today is essential and will affect how you age later in life. If you're not sure where to start, here are 10 behaviors to address (or stop altogether), because they won't do you any favors in your 30s or 40s.
Although many young people only smoke "socially," this habit can have long-lasting health effects, such as lung disease, heart disease, and cancer. In addition, smoking can speed up when you get wrinkles and even gray hairs. Many people turn to e-cigarettes as an alternative, but the long-term effects of these are not currently known. So do yourself a favor and quit now even if it’s just a "social one," once in a while.
2. Getting too much sun exposure
Going to the beach with friends is a great thing to do. Unfortunately, cumulative sun effects on your body can be dangerous. Also, you'll definitely develop more wrinkles and age spots on your face and body from the sun. Skin cancer is caused by repetitive exposure to sun (or tanning booths), so wear your sunscreen (at least SPF 15) and have fun at the beach!
For those of you who are concerned about the toxins in sunscreen, there are more natural and organic sunscreens on the market. While there is some controversy about using sunscreen, the risk of long-term sun exposure and skin cancer way outweigh the risk of the sunscreen itself.
3. Binge drinking
It sounds okay to "only drink on the weekends." Unfortunately, your liver does not feel the same way! When you binge drink on a Friday or Saturday night (more than three drinks for women and five drinks for men), your liver works overtime and cannot do the job it's designed to do (detoxify your body). So as you age, your liver becomes damaged. Remember, you only have one liver, so take care of it. Ease up on the booze!
4. Having unprotected sex
One night of unprotected sex can lead to a lifetime of problems. Sound harsh? Think about what that one time can cause: HIV, Hepatitis C, STDs, and herpes, to name just a few diseases. I know that in the moment it can make sense to have unprotected sex "just this once,” but you have a long life to live and some of these diseases can be with you forever and really add stress to your life. Be safe!
5. Skimping on sleep
Young people tend to burn the candle at both ends and get away with it. Without enough sleep, your body begins to break down; your immune system and your brain function are greatly impaired. Establish healthy sleep patterns early on. It will help you prevent disease throughout life.
6. Not exercising
Living a sedentary life style has been proven time and time again to be a precursor to diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Establish a healthy exercise pattern in your 20s to help prevent heart disease later in life. Doing just 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise (brisk walking or jogging) three times a week is a good start!
7. Allowing stress to take over your life
Learning healthy stress reducers will help you all through life, since chronic stress has been linked to anxiety, depression, digestive troubles, and more. You can manage your stress with yoga, meditation, or breathing techniques. There will always be stress throughout life, but learning how to deal with it can make all the difference.
8. Avoiding the doctor
Why should a healthy young person go to the doctor? For just that reason … someone should look at you and determine that you are truly healthy on the inside (routine blood work, appropriate physical exam, and possibly an EKG). Establishing good health practices early on can help prevent many diseases from occurring! It’s worth it!!
9. Eating junk
When life is crazy, it’s just easier to eat whatever you can get quickly. Unfortunately, fast-food is typically full of saturated fat builds up cholesterol plaque in your heart and ready-made processed snacks are addictive and filled with unhealthy (and sometimes toxic) ingredients. So ignoring healthy eating early on in life is a ticket to future heart disease. Fruits, vegetables and lean protein are your keys to health! (If you're looking to clean up your diet, here are 10 shortcuts to get you started.)
10. Knowing it all
What is the danger of knowing it all? The problem is, you can't! No one can. Young people who are well educated, sophisticated and motivated think they know what's right in every situation. Parents, teachers, and bosses take a backseat to the independent 20-something paving a path. Kudos for paving the path, but be mindful of those who have paved the path ahead of you — they might have some helpful advice. As life goes on, we all need to learn from each other, so it’s a great habit to adopt!