I know it sounds odd that you ought to start seriously thinking about your health in your 20s — I mean, you're still so young! — but this is the exact right time to set good health habits to last your lifetime. Granted, you don't need to think about dentures and a walker just yet, but there are a few things you ought to take care of, stat.
1. Skin Cancer Risk
Skin cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in young women, and part of the reason why is because we're just not worried about it — we're way more worried about the perfect tan. Starting now, in your 20s, start wearing sunblock and get your skin screened every year for any trouble spots. It could truly save your life!
Smoking cigarettes (and using e-cigs) is just terrible for your health in so many ways, so if you haven't quit yet, talk to your doctor and ask how she can help. It's time!
Do you take risks on the road, like speeding, driving aggressively, driving drunk or tipsy, or texting and driving? Sweetie, stop! These things are all incredibly dangerous. If I promise not to do any of these, will you too?
You've only been legal to drink for a few years, so it might sound strange to suggest that you check your alcohol habits. But now's the time to cut out the binge drinking, or at least cut it back quite a bit.
Gone are the college dorm food days — pizza rolls, ramen, fast food and take-out. Now it's time to load up on lean protein, whole grains, and fresh fruits and veggies. Your body will thank you in so many ways!
Are you getting enough calcium now, in your 20s, to protect your bone health later in life? If you're not sure, find out. Old lady you will be so glad you did!
Did you know you ought to have a dental exam and a cleaning every 6 months? Not only will it keep your smile pretty and white, it'll also help detect any dental issues you might develop as you move in your adult life. Le sigh.
8. Feel Your Boobies
Breast cancer is relatively rare in women in their 20s, but it's not unheard of, and besides, getting into the habit of doing a monthly breast self-exam in an excellent idea. Do it the week after your period ends, and do it every. single. month.
9. Blood Work
As part of your annual physical, your doctor should be doing a blood draw to test for things like thyroid function and cholesterol levels.
10. Heart Health
Your 20s are also the perfect time to start seriously thinking about preserving your heart health, because as frightening as it sounds, heart disease is the number one killer of women, and this is the time to start ensuring your heart is healthy, through regular cardio exercise and a healthful diet.
If you're at all sexually active, it's a good idea to be screened for STDs once a year, as part of your annual exam. Most STDs don't really have symptoms, so ease your mind and get screened.
12. Lady Parts
It's also a good idea to start being screened for the early signs of cervical cancer in your 20s, via an annual pap smear, which should be part of your annual pelvic exam. It's no fun, but it's so important!
If you're suffering from an addiction, now's the time to get help. Don't spend another minute at the mercy of something you know your body can't afford
14. Mental Health
I'm not sure where the stigma attached to mental illness came from, but it's got to stop! If you're suffering from depression or anxiety, please get help. There's no shame in it, and you might even inspire someone else who's hurting to get help, too.
15. Squad Goals
The friendships you're developing now can help improve the quality of your life and your overall health and well-being, so get your squad together and make spending QT a priority!
16. Feet First
It may be time to give up, or at least sharply reduce your time wearing heels. Why? Because they're so, so bad for your body, starting with your feet!
17. Body Image
This is the time of your life when you need to tell the shamers and haters to GTFO and realize you're beautiful AF, as is. Yes, you should consider the health of your body, but so little of that is related to weight and shape. Love the body you've got... you'll be so much happier.
Again, this is all about establishing healthy habits for life! Aim to exercise about an hour a day, four or five days a week, doing something you love that also makes you sweat. Running, yoga, soccer, swimming — do what you love!
Did you know most of us have already damaged our hearing (usually with too-loud music) by the time we're well into our 20s? Try turning it down a little, and if you're annoyed by tinnitus (ringing in your ears), get help.
Sleep is SO important to good health, please promise you'll aim for at least 6 hours, and as many as 8 or 9, a night from now on.
21. End the Abuse
If you're involved with a man (or even just a friend or family member) who's mentally, emotionally, sexually, physically, or otherwise abusive, it's time to cut that person out of your life. And you don't have to go it alone! There are loads of support groups that can help.
Who knew there were so many health things to consider before you even hit 30?! Seriously, all of these things matter, so please promise you'll take care of you... promise!