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Most of us don’t worry too much about major health problems. We think of ill health as something that happens to older people, not to young ones. In reality, some of these conditions could affect you at a much younger age than you might think. Some of them might affect you now, or start much sooner in life, brought on early by unhealthy behavior in your 20s and 30s.
Thanks to many of us leading more sedentary lifestyles—especially now, THANKS COVID-19—there has been a rise in risk factors for poor health in young adults. These risk factors are largely preventable with some simple lifestyle changes.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is when your blood pumps too forcefully through your veins. One of the major risks of high blood pressure is that you can have it without having any symptoms. This means your heart, kidneys, blood vessels, and brain are all taking damage without you realizing it.
At the moment, the number of young adults with high blood pressure is relatively low. However, young adults are also far less likely to receive diagnosis and treatment, so for those who do have it, they can go a long time left unawares.
When left untreated, high blood pressure is one of the health problems that can cause heart disease and strokes. The best way to reduce your risk is to keep your blood pressure in check.
Nobody expects their eyesight to deteriorate as a young adult, but actually, you can experience a range of eye problems for the first time before the age of 40. One of the most common is eye strain. Eye strain is caused by the enormous amount of time most of us spend staring at a screen, whether our phones, our laptops, or the television. Another common cause is eye traumas. Men are especially at risk of this, thanks to active hobbies like DIY home improvement and playing sports. To protect your eyes, always use protective items when taking part in these activities, like goggles or screens.
Of all the health problems, eye problems you can avoid by using PPE is the best place to start.
Related Post: Are You Safety Conscious?
Type 2 Diabetes
Another of the major health problems in the United States that’s on the rise, and can go undiagnosed, is Type 2 Diabetes. We talk about Type 1 Diabetes on the podcast, and Type 2 comes into play at times. This is a major problem.
Your weight is the leading factor that decides your risk of type 2 diabetes. While not directly caused by overconsumption of sugar, T2D affects overweight and obese people far more than underweight or normal-weight people. A healthy weight is not one-size-fits-all, so aim for whatever is natural on your frame when you’re not overeating. Consistency is key, and so is maintaining an active lifestyle to keep your body healthy.
Hispanic, African-American, and Native American people are more likely to develop T2D, so these groups should be especially careful. If you do develop type 2 diabetes, you have a greatly increased risk of heart disease. Fortunately, you can almost always reverse it through diet, exercise, and carefully managed medications. Read Dr. Fung’s book, The Obesity Code, for more information.
Some women may also experience gestational diabetes while pregnant. If this happens, you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life, so you should be screened for it regularly after delivery.
Most strokes occur in older people, but there has been a spike in younger people experiencing strokes in recent years. While a stroke is less common at a younger age, the strokes that do happen are more likely to be fatal.
But why is this increase in health problems, especially stroke, happening? Risk factors for cardiovascular disease are on the rise in young adults, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and smoking. Women are also at higher risk if they are pregnant or taking birth control pills (although this risk is only slightly higher than men). Autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are also linked to a higher risk of stroke too.
Colon and Rectal Cancer
The major risk for colon cancers is usually just age. However, there has been an uptick in the number of younger patients, although medical professionals are not sure why.
The best response to knowing this is to know the signs of cancers in the colon or rectum, so you can catch them early. If you see blood in your stool or notice changes in your bowel habits, see your doctor. Young people tend to be diagnosed later for colon cancer, so being alert for signs yourself can counteract this problem. If you do notice these symptoms, your doctor will likely treat you for a condition like hemorrhoids first. Ask to be tested for cancer if this doesn’t help.
If one of your parents or a sibling has had colorectal cancer before the age of 50, then you should definitely be tested early, around ten years before the age your family member was diagnosed.
Brain shrinkage sounds like a very frightening condition, but actually, it is a normal part of aging. However, there are things that can cause this to happen faster and sooner. If you have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or smoke, your brain may shrink faster than normal, which can hit your mental capacity.
The best way to protect your brain is to make healthy choices in your younger years. Taking good care of your physical health can also help your mental health and your mind. Keep active, eat well, and you’ll reap the benefits later.
How Can You Reduce Your Risk Level?
For many people, finding the time to care to proper of ourselves comes at the bottom of a long list after juggling a career, studies, your marriage, parenting, and other relationships. Despite this challenge, it is essential to make time for your own health too in order to avoid health problems later in life.
If you can reach middle age and still have low cholesterol, good blood pressure, no type 2 diabetes, and are a non-smoker of a good weight for your body, you’re doing well and will be less likely to have more serious health problems as you get older.
To give yourself the best chance of being in good health long into your elderly years, make sure you have regular checkups with your doctor so you can monitor your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. If any of these start to become a problem, you’ll know early, so you can manage them better before they cause more problems.
Try to eat a healthy diet and maintain an active routine, whether through exercise or an active lifestyle. Work out what is a healthy weight for you and try to stay there. If you’re a smoker, quit now. If you aren’t a smoker, make sure you don’t start.
Are you the tracking type of person? Consider using fitness devices (though be aware of the downsides) to track your activity levels, a pedometer to track your steps, and a food diary to keep an eye on what you eat. Have regular health checkups so you can catch any developing health conditions early, and make informed choices about your health going forward.
Make it Easy!
The easiest way to stay healthy is to make it a family affair. When you shop for the family, shop with the idea of healthy meals in mind so you can make tasty, nutritious food for everyone. Share healthy habits with the children, by cooking healthy meals together, and finding active ways to spend together. You could go on bike rides together, go on long walks at weekends, or just play ball games in the garden.
All of this adds up to a healthy body, a healthy mind, and a healthy family. You can enjoy good health as you get older and feel confident that you have taught your family to care for their health too, so your children won’t fall into unhealthy habits later on.