Health For The Decades: The invincible 20s, the transitional 30s |

Health For The Decades: The invincible 20s, the transitional 30s

There’s usually a moment in your mid-20s, an epiphany of sorts, when you realize that you’re not 16 anymore. That’s the time – the morning when you get out of bed and feel a tweak in your knee, the afternoon at work when weariness wins a battle against your heavy eyes, the evening when your little black dress hugs your hips just a little too tightly – that’s when you may want to start paying a little more attention to your health.

“When people are in their teens, they are generally more passive about their health. Young people get up every morning and typically feel as good as they did the day before,” said Dr. Drew Werner, a family practitioner in Eagle. “In their 20s, people need to start taking a more active approach to their health.”

Werner said that this is the time when people take their health and wellness for granted, and may be more apt to participate in risky or obstructive behavior. However, he said it’s actually when they should be maintaining their health to get started on a path of illness and injury prevention.

Even as your priorities start to switch – classes to complete, events to attend, bills to pay – Werner said that the best way to maintain your health is to always get enough sleep, eat right and exercise sufficiently. He said the body isn’t meant to play catch-up, so waiting for the weekend to kick-in your healthy habits is not sustainable.

“If you are not sleeping well, eating well and exercising well, don’t expect your health to be good,” he said.

People do seem to take their health for granted in the first half of their lives, Werner said, and many 20-somethings seem to think that they will never get hurt or sick – until they do.

“People suddenly realize that they are not invincible, and that their health, which has been so natural for so long, has taken a backseat in their lives, until an injury or concern brings them in,” Werner said. “The health you have today will not last forever, until you make it happen that way.”

Hitting the big 3-0 may be a shock to some, but your body may still be reaching its high-points. Werner said health peaks in your 30s, so this is the decade to really maximize your physical well-being.

“This is the time to recognize that your health starts to deteriorate after it reaches its peak, and it will do so from the point of your maximum health,” Werner said. “If you let yourself go, it won’t bode well for your future.”

He said being healthy in your 30s marks the difference in your future of being able to play with your grandkids when you’re older, or just being able to watch them.

As individuals continue to advance their careers and couples begin to create families, the 30s should be a time to focus on your physical and emotional wellness, rather than neglect it.

“In their 30s, people haven’t hit their midlife crisis yet, but it’s a decade when people are starting to plan, in respect to career and family,” Werner said.

This may be a time when people change their peer groups, depending on shifts in their careers and developments in their families. Werner said that regular examinations with health practitioners are a must, but that there are other ways that people should care for their overall balance of health in their physical, psychological and social realms.

“A lot of practitioners can help people with their health, but other healing arts can help improve people’s health,” Werner said. “It’s all in how people balance things, and take the time to take care of themselves.”

Male specific:

Testicle examinations

“I do recommend that men do monthly testicular exams on themselves since testicular cancer is one of the more prevalent cancers for men this age,” said Dr. Tracee Metcalfe, adult hospitalist at the Vail Valley Medical Center.

Any noticeable changes or irregularities in the feeling of testicles should be consulted with a physician.

Female specific:

Breast health

“I do recommend that women learn how to do self-breast exams and perform them monthly,” Metcalfe said. “Women should get a pap smear every two years, and more frequently if they have had an abnormal pap for cervical cancer precautions.”

Bone health

“Women should focus on their bones, specifically making sure they are getting adequate calcium and vitamin D,” Metcalfe said.

Birth control

There are a lot of different options for women’s birth control, and the copper and low-hormone intrauterine device (IUD) options are coming back into favor, Metcalfe said. These options are generally recommended for women with more than one sexual partner, and Metcalfe said women should consult their gynecologist if they want to learn more about birth control options.

Males and females:

Skin health

Individuals should always protect their skin from sun with sunscreen, Metcalfe said. If there are any irregularities found on the skin, she recommends going to a dermatologist to get the skin examined.

Safe sex

Condoms are generally recommended during sexual activity to help protect from STDs and to prevent unwanted or unplanned pregnancies.

“You should be tested for an STD every time you change sexual partners,” Metcalfe said. “Screenings generally test for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and HIV, and the female pap smear is looking for signs of cervical cancer which is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV).”

Exercise regimen

For exercise, Metcalfe recommends regular cardiovascular activity 40 to 60 minutes, four to six times a week, as well as weight bearing exercise incorporated into your fitness regimen.

Healthy habits

“I think it’s really important for people who smoke to quit smoking and to not drink excessively,” Metcalfe said. “Developing healthy habits when you are younger will carry through when you get older. This is the time to learn about your own family history and to learn about what diseases you may be at risk for.”

She said your vaccinations should be up to date, including tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis A and B, and MMR for measles, mumps and rubella.

Adequate calcium and vitamin D should be consumed. Fifteen hundrend milligrams of calcium and 800 International Units of vitamin D should be consumed within daily meal intake, and if not then, Metcalfe recommends taking supplements during meals.

Lifestyle habits such as wearing seatbelts in cars and helmets during sports are also suggested by Metcalfe for personal protection.

The Health for the Decades series will continue next month with “Focus on your 40s.” Email comments about this story to

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