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Amidst the chaos of career-building, social engagements, and personal growth, it's all too easy to overlook the most critical aspect of your life: your health. But by cultivating healthy habits in your 20s, you can lay the foundation for a lifetime of better health and wellness. 

It’s hard to keep track of these things, so we put together this article for you to easily check off the activities, tests, screenings, and more during this decade. So let's delve into the key areas that demand your attention and explore the steps you can take to take care of yourself.

General Health

First off, now is the time to find a primary care physician (PCP) if you don’t already have one. They will be your go-to for annual check-ups, preventive care, and any health concerns that arise.

Feeling under the weather? Call your PCP. Need your annual vaccines? Call your PCP. Need referral to a specialist? Call your PCP.  Your health care provider is there to guide you to optimal health. 

At home:

✔ Get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

✔ Eat a colorful, nutrient-dense diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and heart-healthy fats.

✔  Engage in regular exercise, aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.

✔ Limit alcohol and avoid tobacco and drugs.

At the doctor:

✔ Schedule annual check-ups with a primary care provider. Make sure to track your heart rate and blood pressure for changes over time.

✔ Discuss any family history of chronic diseases or genetic conditions.

✔ Get recommended vaccinations, such as the annual flu shot and the HPV vaccine if you haven't already received it.

Reproductive and Sexual Health

Taking charge of your reproductive and sexual health is important for your overall well-being and future family planning.

At home:

✔ If you're sexually active, practice safe sex by using condoms and openly discussing STI testing with your partner(s).

✔ Track your menstrual cycle to better understand your body and identify any irregularities.

✔ Take an at-home ovarian reserve test to have a better understanding of your fertility health. 

✔ Educate yourself on egg freezing, and if it’s right for you.

At the doctor:

✔ Attend annual well-woman visits with an OBGYN, which include a pelvic exam and breast exam.

✔ Get a Pap smear every three years starting at age 21, or as recommended by your OBGYN, to check for cervical cancer.

✔ Discuss contraception options with your healthcare provider to find the best fit for your lifestyle and health needs.

✔ Get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) if you're sexually active, or if you have any symptoms.

Skin Health

Your skin is your body's largest organ, and caring for it now can pay dividends in the future.

At home:

✔ Protect your skin from the sun's harmful rays by applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 daily, even on overcast days. And stay far away from tanning beds!

✔ Develop a skincare routine that includes cleansing, moisturizing, and exfoliating to keep your skin healthy and radiant.

✔ Always remove makeup before you go to bed.

✔ Perform monthly self-examinations of your skin.

At the doctor:

✔ If you have a skin condition or have a high risk for skin cancer, establish care with a dermatologist.

✔ Promptly report any concerning changes in your skin to your dermatologist.

Breast Health

Regular breast care and awareness can lead to early detection of potential issues and peace of mind.

At home:

✔ Perform monthly breast self-exams to familiarize yourself with your breasts and detect any changes early on.

At the doctor:

✔ Your OBGYN visit should include a breast exam.

✔  Those with a personal or family history of breast cancer or who have an ancestry associated with BRCA1/2 gene mutations get a familial risk assessment. Those with a positive result on the risk assessment tool should receive genetic counseling and potentially genetic testing.

Mental Health

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and nurturing it in your 20s sets the stage for emotional resilience.

At home:

✔ Practice self-care activities that promote relaxation and help manage stress levels, such as reading, taking a bath, or pursuing a hobby.

✔  Maintain a strong support system of friends and family.

✔  Consider journaling or other forms of self-reflection to process your thoughts and emotions.

At the doctor:

✔  If you're experiencing persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or hopelessness, reach out to a mental health professional.

✔  Schedule a mental health check-up with your PCP or a therapist, especially if you have a family history of mental health conditions.

Oral Health

Maintaining good oral hygiene in your 20s can help prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and other dental problems down the road.

At home:

✔  Brush your teeth twice a day with an electric toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste for at least two minutes each time.

✔  Floss daily to remove plaque and food particles between your teeth.

✔  Limit sugary and acidic foods and drinks, as they can erode tooth enamel.

✔  Consider using an antiseptic mouthwash to further reduce bacteria and freshen your breath.

At the doctor:

✔  Schedule regular dental check-ups and cleanings every six months, or as recommended by your dentist.

✔  Don't ignore any persistent pain, sensitivity, or bleeding in your teeth or gums; these could be signs of a more serious issue that requires attention from your dentist.

Eye Health

Taking care of your eyes in your 20s can help prevent vision problems and maintain healthy eyesight for years to come.

At home:

✔ Protect your eyes from UV damage by wearing sunglasses with 100% UV protection when outdoors.

✔ Practice the 20-20-20 rule when working on digital devices: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds to reduce eye strain.

At the doctor:

✔ Schedule a comprehensive eye exam every 1-2 years, or as recommended by your eye doctor.

✔ If you wear contact lenses, follow your eye doctor's instructions for proper use and replacement.

✔ If you experience persistent eye pain, redness, or changes in vision, consult your eye doctor promptly.

The power of healthy habits in your 20s

Your 20s are a great time for establishing healthy habits that will serve you well throughout your life. By paying attention to these key areas of health - from general wellness to reproductive, skin, breast, mental, oral, and eye health - you're investing in your future self. 

Remember, health is not a destination but a journey, and it's never too early to start taking care of yourself. Regular check-ups, preventive care, and healthy lifestyle choices made now can lead to a healthier, happier you in the decades to come. So, embrace this time of growth and self-discovery, and make your health a top priority. Your future self will thank you for the care and attention you give to your health today.