Tips for healthy aging: Your teens and 20s

Mar 11, 2015

Part one of our seven-part series

Aging begins at birth. Even so, the way we age changes with each successive decade of life. What health goals should you have when you are in your teens and twenties? The following tips can help you adopt habits that will maximize your health now while preparing you for a better future.

Build bone density

Building bone is especially important for women, who typically lose bone density after levels of estrogen decline following menopause. But most bone density accumulates during your early years, so now is the best time to take these preventive actions.

  • Eat a healthy diet with an adequate amount of calcium and vitamin D. 
  • Do weight-bearing exercise.

Protect your head, muscles, bones, and joints

Head injuries in youth can increase your risk of developing dementia later in life.  And injuries to other body parts can result in a host of chronic health problems later on. Remember to:

  • Wear appropriate protective gear when you play sports, including helmets and proper shoes.
  • Do five to ten minutes of warm-up exercises before sports or strenuous exercises.
  • Do gentle stretches during and after exercise to increase flexibility.

Protect your hearing

Hearing loss can be cumulative, caused by exposure to loud noise over time. Avoid exposure by:

  • Wearing ear protection at loud concerts or around loud machinery.
  • Keep your stereo at a reasonable volume.
  • Don’t wait until you experience symptoms of hearing loss; by then it may be too late to prevent permanent damage.

Protect yourself from skin cancer

Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 whenever you spend time outdoors. Avoid tanning booths and sunlamps that emit ultraviolet radiation and can cause skin damage, increasing the risk of skin cancer.

Start saving money

Many studies have linked poverty to poor health in later years. Building a solid nest egg may allow you to live a healthier lifestyle as you age.

Practice safe sex

Avoiding multiple partners and consistently using condoms can reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including the human papillomavirus (HPV), which increases the risk of genital warts and cervical cancer.

Get the HPV vaccine

Vaccines to prevent HPV are typically recommended for children age 11 or 12, before they become sexually active. For girls who have not already gotten the vaccine, it is recommended up to age 26. For boys who have not already gotten the shot, the vaccine is recommended up to age 21.

Women’s health screening

Group Health recommends that most women between ages 21 and 64 get a Pap test every three years to screen for cervical cancer. Talk to your doctor about the schedule that’s right for you. Group Health also recommends that all sexually active women from age 16 to 24 have regular screening for chlamydia, the most common STD. Women age 25 and older who are at high risk for STDs also should be screened.

Check your blood pressure

Healthy people this age should begin having their blood pressure checked at every visit.

Check out more health tips for your thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, and beyond on our Healthy Findings blog.

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Posted by Mason Taylor on
I found it exhilarating to jog around Green Lake, along Lake Washington, thru Discovery Park, around Seward Park, etc., great to be out in nature in all kinds of weather! BUT I didn't realize how often I needed to replace my jogging shoes, resulting in knee problems years later. If you can afford $100 every 3 months for new jogging shoes, go ahead, my young friend. Otherwise consider elliptical machines, bicycles, swimming, Nordic ski machines to avoid impact damage to joints. Or walking. Or hiking.
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Healthy aging: Never too early—or too late

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