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Your 20s: time to establish healthy habits

Cultivate a healthy relationship with food. Over-extended schedules or lazy, disordered attitudes toward food can keep young women at the mercy of fast food, fad diets, and generally bad nutritional habits. As a twenty-something, you have the chance to explore and experiment with nutrition. Get to know food. Get to love food. Get to know food that loves you back, the kind of food that nurtures you, gives you energy, and makes you feel lucky to be alive to taste it. So clear the take-out numbers from your cell phone, and stop skipping breakfast! Buy a good cookbook or delve into foodie and recipe blogs online. Acquaint yourself with the produce section of your local market, a bounty of nutrient-rich, delicious options.

Get active and stay active. In your 20s, energy and activity may come in bursts: pulling all-nighters studying or partying, adventurous travel with friends, preparing a blitz of resumes and cover letters for a job search. This can also be a great time to experiment and seek out the kinds of physical activities that you most enjoy. Cardiovascular benefits can be felt on the trail or the treadmill, in a spin class, on the soccer field, running the bases, running the track, walking the beach, or dancing 'til dawn. The most important thing is to find things you love to do that keep you moving. Regular physical activity will help you fend off - among other things - excess weight, heart disease, diabetes, bone loss, stress, and depression.

Don't smoke. It's a simple and scientifically proven fact that cigarette smoking is bad for your health - and in so many different ways! You may feel like, "Hey, I'm young. I can get away with it" and just puff away. True, lung cancer doesn't usually occur until late in life, but smoking also puts you at risk for heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, cervical cancer, and problems with menstruation and fertility. Not to mention there's nothing glamorous or cool about low bone density, yellow and decayed teeth, or swollen, bleeding gums.

Build a strong foundation. By the time you hit your late 20s, your bone density has nearly reached its peak. Your work now is to build what you can and to maintain what you have. And it is a bit of work, in terms of both fitness and the foods you choose to eat. See, at this age, you need to pull in about 1000 mg of calcium per day. To get an idea, a cup of plain yogurt contains a little over 300 mg. Other food sources of calcium include cheese, tofu, many kinds of beans, and some dark, leafy greens. Your bones also appreciate an ample supply of vitamin D, 600 IU per day, which will help your bones to soak up the calcium you feed them. You can take supplements to get the minerals and vitamins you need, or you can go the tastier route and work them into your diet. Do weight-bearing exercise to fortify your bones, and core training to create your body's central, stabilizing powerhouse. Your knees also have needs. As you get older, they'll need all the help they can get, so scaffold them with strong quadriceps and calf muscles.

Protect your skin. Our skin ages right along with us. No one can completely escape the natural and environmental oxidative damage that eventually leads to our skin's structural breakdown. Wrinkles and sagging skin may be delayed, though, with healthy habits, a balanced diet, and a skin care routine that emphasizes protection, cleansing, and exfoliation. Whenever you head outdoors, wear sunscreen on exposed skin, and reapply it as needed. A moisturizer with higher sun protection factor (SPF) may be necessary on your face, and don't neglect your tender, vulnerable lips.

Squeeze in sleep. More and more people seem to be getting less and less sleep. Too bad: sleep is a precious health commodity, crucial to a healthy, functioning body and mind. In your 20s, you may face the occasional sleep deficit after an all-nighter or during a stressful time. Or you might experience full-blown insomnia. Chronic sleeplessness may lead to depression, diabetes, and diminished ability to learn and retain information. Lots of things contribute to sleeplessness - scattered and busy schedules, depression and anxiety, too much caffeine, too much alcohol, and smoking, to name only a few. Set yourself up for a good, nourishing sleep of 7 to 9 hours each night by avoiding those sleep-snatchers and establishing consistent sleep routines.

Practice safe sex. The best protection against STIs is the latex condom, though they are not 100% effective. Even if you think you've been as careful as possible, you still may have put yourself at risk for STIs like human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, and gonorrhea. Incorrect condom use can lead to STIs, such as HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer. If you're sexually active, you should be screened for infection, including a Pap test, every 3 years during your 20s. Consult with your doctor on how often to get Pap tested and if an HPV vaccine is suitable for you.

Flush infections. Women in their 20s may experience some very private pains down there. Urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and bacterial vaginosis can all be avoided by practicing a few hygienic and lifestyle habits. Sex can introduce bacteria into your system, from your partner's genitals or by the disruption of the balance of the bacteria caused by spermicide. Women used to use douching for this purpose, but the process can actually disrupt the balance of "good" bacteria in your genital area. Rather, you can flush away bacteria by urinating right after you have sex. And you may have learned this way back in the potty-training days, but make sure you always wipe from front to back after you use the toilet.

Safeguard your reproductive health. Consult with your gynecologist or reproductive specialist to choose the best possible contraceptive option for you and your lifestyle. Oral birth control pills may work for one woman, while another option will better meet another woman's needs. Optimize your fertility by getting sufficient levels of folic acid before and during pregnancy. A supplement containing 0.4 mg (400 micrograms) of folic acid can complement a diet with folic-rich foods, like whole grains, spinach, and lentils.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2023. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source:

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