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3 Health Conditions That Show Up in Your 20s

May 24, 2024

Your 20s can be some of the best of years of your life. You feel healthy, look great and the world seems full of opportunities. But the decisions you make during your 20s can also have a long-term impact on your health.

“Your twenties set the foundation for long-term health. That’s why it’s so important to establish healthy habits early, during these years,” emphasizes Meghan Philips, APRN, with Hartford HealthCare Medical Group.

In fact, some chronic health conditions can even appear while your still in your 20s. We asked Philips to break down the three most common conditions for the age group and explain how you can set yourself up for a long healthy life.

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1. Obesity

Obesity has a lot of stigma attached to it, but it’s a condition like any other.

“It’s a term used to indicate having too much body mass, or a high body mass index (BMI) over 25-26,” explains Philips.

There are many risk factors for obesity, but the most common are:

  • Childhood obesity
  • Poor diet, including high intake of saturated fats, fried foods and alcohol
  • A lack of exercise
  • College lifestyle changes, i.e. increased alcohol consumption

Unlike other chronic conditions, the signs and symptoms of obesity are more apparent – including physical appearance changes and the potential for co-occurring conditions like heart disease.

The good news? Obesity is preventable and can be reversed with lifestyle changes.

You can prevent (or reverse) obesity by:

  1. Staying active – exercise at least 30 minutes five days a week
  2. Maintaining a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and proteins
  3. Avoiding high-saturated fats, fried foods and excessive alcohol consumption
  4. Prioritizing healthy, quick meal options over convenience foods.

Regular health checkups with a primary care provider to monitor your BMI and overall health are also key.

> Related: Top 3 Physical Activity Goals for Weight Loss

2. Depression

Although your 20s can be great, it’s also the time when mental illnesses like depression are most likely to happen.

“Depression is a common mental disorder involving a low mood or loss of pleasure or interest in activities for long periods,” explains Philips. “Emotional and physical health are intertwined – managing one often helps manage the other.”

Risk factors for depression include but aren’t limited to:

  • Isolation and lack of social support
  • Transition to adulthood challenges, i.e. starting college or a new job
  • Feelings of failure of being overwhelmed by new responsibilities

While some signs and symptoms of depression are obvious, others are less apparent:

  • Withdrawal from social interactions
  • Increased need for sleep
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Feelings of worthlessness or failure
  • Suicidal thoughts or tendencies

And just like obesity, there are effective ways to prevent depression and lifestyle changes to help you manage.

Here are ways you can prevent depression, according to Philips:

  1. Be self-aware of changes in your mental health.
  2. Seek help early from therapists or psychiatrists. Hartford HealthCare Medical Group offers behavioral health directly through our primary care offices – ask your primary care provider about it.
  3. Build a strong support system of friends, family or support groups.
  4. Reduce stigma by opening discussing mental health issues.

If you think you’re struggling with depression, seek professional help from a primary care provider or therapist. Therapy or medication, as recommended by a healthcare provider, can be effective treatments for managing depression.

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3. High blood pressure

High blood pressure — also known as hypertension or the silent killer — affects almost half of all adults over 18, and can first show up in your 20s.

“Unfortunately, signs and symptoms for high blood pressure are typically asymptomatic. However, severe cases may cause headaches, particularly at the base of the skull,” Philips explains.

So, it’s important to know your risk factors to prevent high blood pressure down the road:

  • High sodium intake.
  • A poor diet, high in unhealthy fats.
  • Obesity.
  • A lack of physical exercise

Given the risk factors of high blood pressure, the prevention tips and lifestyle changes for management should come as no surprise:

  1. Regular blood pressure monitoring.
  2. Maintain a consistent exercise routine.
  3. Adopt healthy eating habits, focusing on low-fat and low-sodium foods.
  4. Practice mindful dietary choices, limiting sodium and unhealthy fats.
  5. Schedule regular medical checkups to monitor blood pressure.
  6. Implement stress management techniques.

Prevention, detection and management

The key to health in your 20s boils down to a healthy lifestyle, and regular check-ins with a doctor.

“The best way for you to prevent, detect and manage these chronic conditions is with regular health checkups with your primary care provider,” explains Philips. “By focusing on healthy lifestyle choices now, you can help prevent their onset later.”