As a child, a teen and even as a young adult, you may have grown used to someone else being in charge of your health care. Whether it's a parent, pediatrician or guardian, young people often rely on others to guide — and enforce — the maintenance of their health and wellness.
However, once adulthood strikes and some of the health concerns and questions that come with it arise, it is up to you to work with your primary care provider (PCP) to keep yourself healthy.
"It is important for patients to play an active, rather than passive, role in their health and wellness journey in order to be successful," says Dr. Amber Ortega, a board-certified family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy.
Dr. Ortega recently took some time to discuss the health issues and care you should be considering in each age, starting in your 20s. "Our aim is to prevent diseases before they happen," she says. "This allows us to maximize our health and, in return, maximize our happiness."Medications and vaccinations
- Ask your primary care doctor about birth control and talk about what option is best for you.
- If you are a man age 21 and under or a woman age 26 and under and have not yet received the HPV vaccination, talk to your doctor about this vaccine, which can help prevent some types of cancer.
- Don't forget to receive your annual flu vaccine and ask your PCP about getting a Tdap — tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis — shot every 10 years.
- If you are a woman over age 21, it is time to start cervical cancer screening with routine Pap tests. The frequency of these exams varies with the kind of test used and the results, so talk to your doctor to know when your next screening is due.
- Regardless of your gender or age, HIV and other sexually transmitted infection (STI) screenings should be performed at least once in your adult life or more often, depending on your own risk level.
- Keep an eye out for odd-shaped moles, spots and other signs of skin cancer. Any changes or concerns found during self-exams should be brought to the attention of your doctor.
- Basic mental health screenings were a part of your pediatric appointments and should continue at appointments in your 20s. Don't be afraid to talk with your doctor about feelings of anxiety, depression or any other concerns you may have.
- Ask your doctor about your weight and blood pressure. Now is the time to start taking both seriously and treating them as recommended. Don't avoid this discussion until there is already damage to your body due to these chronic health issues.
- Talk with your provider about lifestyle choices — this includes your diet, physical activity, sexual health and sleep habits, as well as nicotine, alcohol and drug use.
- If you aren't already paying for your own health insurance by age 26, this is the time at which you "age out" of coverage under your parents' plan. Whether you get your health insurance through your job or you are buying it through Covered California, be sure you understand your options.
"Better health starts with having a simple discussion with your provider," Dr. Ortega says. "We are all here to help and support you. It is simply a part of The Sharp Experience."
This article is the first in a series featuring Dr. Amber Ortega and the health issues that arise and questions you should ask your doctor in each chapter of your life. Future articles will focus on health and wellness in your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond.