Laying the Foundation: An Essential Health Guide for Women in Their 20s

October 11, 2017

Healthy Living Through Every Decade: Advice From A Wellness Doctor

When you’re a woman in your 20s, you may not think about preserving and protecting your health very often. But it’s critical that you take steps now to protect your health, so you can live an active, dynamic life well into your golden years. Though you are in the prime of your life now, the sobering truth is that some signs of aging begin as early as your late 20s. As a wellness doctor, I’ve been helping women get on a path to healthier living for over 25 years, and I can assure you that by taking some small measures now, you can lay a solid foundation for living a long, healthy life.

  1. Easy does it: Eating a nutritious diet, getting plenty of sleep, and avoiding too much alcohol (no more than one serving a day for women) are critical to looking and feeling young long after you’ve left your 20s behind. Some key points: get at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night and be sure to fill your plate with whole, unprocessed foods such as unrefined grains, lean protein, and plenty of fruits and vegetables in every color (try to eat the “rainbow” every day). If you do drink, make it a glass of red wine, which has heart-healthy resveratrol, an antioxidant that fights damage from free radicals. Don’t imbibe? There’s no need to start! Red grape juice is also a good source, as are fresh red grapes and boiled peanuts.

 

  1. Protect your ticker: As any wellness doctor will tell you, regular cardiovascular exercise is key to boosting your heart health. What kind of exercise is cardiovascular? Anything that gets your heart pumping! You could jog around your neighborhood, do jumping jacks in your living room, attend a spin class, or even do heavy yard- or housework. Aim to keep your heart rate elevated through exercise for hour a day on most days.

 

  1. Play defense: Whether you’re loving your skin’s youthful glow or are already seeing small fine lines, now is the time to act. Want to avoid wrinkles and skin cancer? Avoid sunbathing, wear a hat, and use sunscreen with at least 30 SPF every day, not just on beach days. Though it’s been said many times before, it bears repeating: stay out of the tanning bed! Research shows that using tanning beds before age 30 increases your risk of developing a deadly skin cancer by up to 75 percent.

 

  1. Fend off STDs: Protect yourself against sexually transmitted diseases, some of which can raise the risk for certain cancers later in life. Whether you use condoms or not, get screened for STDs yearly during your regular checkups. Not going to regular exams with your gynecologist? Don’t wait—start now.

 

  1. An ounce of prevention: Many gynecologists perform full checkups, including skin cancer screenings, breast exams, PAP smears, and routine bloodwork, all of which are key preventative health measures. And if your gyno doesn’t do a complete work-up? See your primary care doctor for a checkup at least once a year. Also, remember that vaccines aren’t just for kids! Be sure you’re up to date with your inoculations, which can prevent against vaccine-preventable illnesses like influenza, HPV, hepatitis, and tetanus (your doctor can advise you regarding which ones you need and when).

 

  1. Ditch cigarettes: If you smoke, quit now. Don’t put it off. Every day you are smoke-free helps your body become healthier and allows your lungs and heart to begin to heal. Talk to your doctor if you need help or support to break the habit. And if you don’t smoke, you certainly shouldn’t start now!

 

  1. Keep your weight in check: If you think it’s hard staying at a healthy weight now, you should know that it often only gets more difficult, especially as the demands of family and career ramp up into your 30s and beyond. It’s also easier to stay in shape and maintain a healthy weight than it is to get in shape and lose weight. Now’s the time to eat well and exercise often. It doesn’t have to involve spending long, intense hours at the gym. At the very least, try to move your body every day and eat and drink moderately. Avoid prolonged sitting, and if you have a desk job, take care to get up and do a lap or two around the office several times a day.

Remember, the foundation for a long, healthy, active life starts now, so don’t wait to start taking better care of yourself. But don’t panic if you’ve realized you’re in need of a total overhaul when it comes to your health. Start by checking one item of this list. Once it becomes a habit, take another step toward living healthier. The earlier you start, the easier it is to maintain.

Want more tips for living your best life through every decade? As a wellness doctor, I’ve dedicated my career to helping individuals—especially women—look and feel great throughout their entire lives. Next up in our women’s health series: Wellness and Work-Life Balance in Your 30s: It IS Possible!