Make the most of this decade.

Your 20s can spark a rocky journey into self-sufficiency that makes it very easy (tempting, even) to put your health on the backburner. For many of us, it can feel like a hamster wheel of working and socializing and doing Big Things—while things like sleep, nourishment, and exercise fall by the wayside. (Take it from this seasoned 28-year-old.)

It also doesn’t help that we’re often told we’re “so young!” and “have nothing to worry about!” even when it may not feel that way. Your 20s are filled with people telling you that you have your whole life ahead of you, that it’s totally OK to just relax and enjoy yourself. And while that’s all nice and valid, it can also contribute to a pretty lackluster attitude around taking care of yourself, especially if you’re generally considered to be in good health.

The thing is, it’s a whole lot easier to maintain good health than it is to reverse course once something is wrong. So, even though phrases like “preventive health screenings” and “flexible spending accounts” might make your eyes glaze over (same, TBH), it’s worth thinking about this stuff in your 20s and setting good habits as early as possible. It can also just feel good to be more mindful about your health in this often transitional, stressful time of our lives. You’re looking out for Current You and Future You.

“The earlier you start to get into a routine of these healthy habits, the easier it is to keep them in your life when it gets … more complicated,” Erin Snyder, M.D., an associate professor of medicine and clinician-educator at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, tells SELF.

With that in mind, here are nine health habits experts recommend nailing down in your 20s.

1. Check in with a primary care doctor once a year.

“Most women in their 20s are generally healthy and pretty busy, so many don’t seek medical attention until they have a problem,” Amber Tully, M.D., a family medicine physician at the Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF. Sure, options like visiting the nearest urgent care center can be great in a pinch. But you’ll benefit much more in the long run from establishing a relationship with a primary care practitioner (PCP), Dr. Tully says.

This means finding a great doctor you trust whose approach and values align with yours, Dr. Tully explains. For instance, you may be most concerned with finding a provider who will be a validating LGBTQ+ ally or who has a certain approach to care that you find helpful or validating.

The next step is making (and keeping) an annual checkup with that person. This will help you stay up-to-date on general health screenings and build a clinical history. Then, when something like a scratchy throat or swollen vulva pops up, “You already have someone who knows you and your history, and who you feel comfortable talking with,” Dr. Tully says. (They’ll also probably be more likely to squeeze you in for a last-minute appointment, Dr. Tully adds.)

2. Find ways to move that you actually enjoy.

You already know that getting exercise is essential to good health at any age. But incorporating working out into your regular routine in your 20s can set the stage for lifelong physical activity.

“Your 20s are a great time to get into this habit of exercise,” Dr. Snyder says. “When life throws you curveballs, you’re able to roll with things because you’re motivated to figure out where to put your exercise time.” For instance, if you spend a year or two really into boxing or lifting or yoga, you’re more likely to prioritize time for that activity even when things get hectic (or especially when things get hectic).

If you haven’t yet discovered what kind of physical activity you really enjoy, now’s the time to experiment. Maybe you like to knock it out with spurts of full-body HIIT or take your sweet time in savasana. From hiking to rowing to, hell, underwater rock running, there are so many possibilities out there.

Once you do figure out what you like, think about what a sustainable workout schedule looks like for you, Dr. Snyder says. What time of day works best? How many times a week is realistic? Do trendy boutique classes or a gym membership fit into your budget, or are you more into apps or no-equipmentat-home workouts? Here are some more tips on starting a fitness routine from scratch if you have zero idea where to start.

3. Learn to cook a few things that you actually like eating.

If your culinary prowess is currently limited to the microwave, it’s worth getting more comfortable in the kitchen. “Learning how to cook is such a vital skill to cement in your 20s,” Dr. Snyder says. The goal is to build up a repertoire of meals you love to make (and devour), Dr. Snyder explains. This makes it so much easier to fuel your body and mind in whichever way helps you feel best, plus it can be a great way to save money.

Try setting aside a couple of nights a week to make dinner for one or meal prep, and think of how to make it fun even if it doesn’t come naturally to you (yet). Try a discounted trial period for a meal-kit delivery service or find a cooking class on Groupon for you and a friend. Incorporate seasonings you’ve never tried, whip up a gourmet version of a childhood favorite, or join the slow-cooker movement.

Cooking doesn’t have to be hard, so don’t feel intimidated. There are tons of unfussy, budget-friendly recipes out there. You don’t even have to chop, dirty more than one pan, or make a special trip to the grocery store if that’s not your thing.

4. Get enough sleep. Seriously.

People in every decade of life are missing out on valuable rest. But people in their 20s may be particularly prone to neglect sleep because it can feel easier to get by on a few hours or rebound from all-nighters, Dr. Tully says. Ah, youth.

But, don’t do this. The drawbacks of sleep deprivation aren’t just limited to next-day irritation and brain fog. If you’re already prone to health issues such as anxiety and depression, chronic sleep deprivation could leave you even more vulnerable. If you drive while too tired, your drowsiness could put your life at risk.

To avoid sleep deprivation, prioritize getting seven to nine hours of rest a night and practicing good sleep hygiene, like by sticking to the same sleep and wake times as much as possible. Yes, this might feel impossible in your 20s. You don’t have to be perfect—just try.

5. Carve out time for regular stress relief.

Clearly, your 20s can be full of upheaval. To cope, figure out what forms of self-care and stress management help you deal with whatever life flings at you. It can be anything, really. Exercise can help mitigate the effects of stress. So can mindfulness meditationjournaling, quality time with good friends, ballet, curling up with tea and a book, therapy, and unplugging from tech. The key is that it’s something you do just for you, Dr. Snyder says.

Whether it’s stepping away from your desk at 2 P.M. every day to recharge or a weekly date night with your partner, make your stress relief happen consistently in order for it to become a habit. “You need to block out time,” Dr. Snyder says. You can even earmark time for stress relief on your calendar if that will help.

6. Wear sunscreen every time you go outside.

The single best dermatological action you can take in your 20s is literally just wearing sunscreen, Dr. Tully says.

Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun (and tanning beds) causes damage that can lead to skin cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). If you’re concerned with signs of aging, like wrinkles, know that UV damage can cause that prematurely, too.

To protect yourself, wear sunscreen on your face and neck every single time you’re going outside, Dr. Tully says. (Go for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to protect against multiple types of ultraviolet damage. Sorry, but makeup with SPF doesn’t cut it.) You should also slather any other exposed skin with sunscreen before heading outside. Beyond that, wear sunglasses with broad-spectrum UV protection and a broad-brimmed hat for extra protection, and generally limit the amount of time you spend in the sun, especially mid-morning to late afternoon. Of course, sometimes you just want to enjoy some sun in the middle of the afternoon, which is fine. Live your life. Just be sure to stay on top of your sunscreen application while you’re at it.

Finally, don’t set foot near a tanning bed, please. If you really want a tan, consider getting it sprayed on instead.

7. If you’re not trying to get pregnant, find a birth control method that works for you.

If you’re sexually active with anyone who can get you pregnant but you don’t want to have kids (now or ever), you could obviously benefit from some birth control. But there are so many options out there—both hormonal and non-hormonal—so it’s worth thinking about what exactly you want from a contraceptive method.

If you’re not sure which birth control would work best for you, talk to your ob/gyn. Be honest with them about anything you’re looking for in addition to pregnancy protection (like if you want to stop your period) and when (if ever) you might want to have kids. That will help inform your choices. For instance, if you want to have a baby soon and like the reassurance of taking a pill every day, oral contraception could be right for you. If you’re not having sex very often and you don’t really want to be on a hormonal method, condoms may be just fine. The important thing is that you’re using whatever method you choose consistently and correctly.

You should also be realistic about what kind of contraception fits most easily into your life. The success of many forms of birth control (like condoms, pills, the vaginal ring, and the patch) can change depending on whether you use the contraception perfectly every single time or typically (as in, you mess up taking it at some point).

It’s also important to be pretty content with your method of birth control so that you stay on it. If the side effects are making you unhappy, talk to your ob/gyn about trying something different instead of letting your birth control lapse.

8. Have safe sex every single time.

Safe sex isn’t always about pregnancy protection. It’s also about protecting yourself from sexually transmitted infections as much as you can.

Unless you and your partner have both been tested and are in a monogamous relationship, that might mean using an external condom (worn by a person with a penis), an internal condom (worn by a person with a vagina), or a dental dam for any oral/genital action. This won’t protect you from all STIs, since infections like herpes and human papillomavirus can be transmitted via intimate skin-to-skin contact. But it’s better than nothing.

Your 20s are also a good time to practice taking control of your sexual and reproductive health by, you know, actually talking to sexual partners about getting tested. Here’s how to do that as easily as possible.

9. See an ob/gyn once a year, too.

Just like with a PCP, building a relationship with an ob/gyn you love can be invaluable.

Seeing your ob/gyn every year will typically entail a pelvic exam and breast exam. It also gives you a chance to discuss any concerns about your sexual and reproductive health, like wanting to try new birth control or experiencing a weird pain during sex.

Also, you need Pap smears pretty regularly in your 20s, and cervical cancer screenings are one of the most essential evaluations for people with vaginas in their 20s, says Dr. Snyder. In your 20s, you should get a Pap smear to check for abnormal cervical cell changes at least every three years, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. You may need them more frequently than that depending on the results. (Here are some tips for making the experience as stress-free as humanly possible.)

Finally, you should be testing for STIs regularly. All sexually active people with vaginas under 25 and those over 25 with certain risk factors (like new or multiple sex partners or a partner with an STI) should be tested for gonorrhoea and chlamydia annually, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Depending on your relationship status and how much sex you have, it may or may not make sense to have these kinds of tests once a year, or it may be best to have them more often. Talking to your ob./gyn at your annual appointment is a great way to figure out what makes sense for you.



You Might Dodge Accidents

Alcohol plays a role in at least half of all serious trauma injuries and deaths from burns, drownings, and homicides. It’s also involved in four out of 10 fatal falls and traffic crashes, as well as suicides. You don’t have to go completely dry to be safer. Even cutting back your drinking by a third can lower the number of injuries and sick days.

Your Heart Gets Healthier

You might think that a regular glass of red wine or other alcoholic beverages might be good for your heart. But that may not be true, or true only for light sippers (less than one drink a day). If you use more than that, cutting back or quitting may lower your blood pressure, levels of fat called triglycerides, and chances of heart failure.

Your Liver May Heal

Your liver’s job is to filter toxins. And alcohol is toxic to your cells. Heavy drinking — at least 15 drinks for men and eight or more for women a week — can take a toll on the organ and lead to fatty liver, cirrhosis, and other problems. The good news: your liver can repair itself and even regenerate. So it’s always worth drinking less or quitting.

You Might Drop Pounds

A glass of regular beer has about 150 calories, and a serving of wine has about 120. On top of those mostly empty calories, alcohol ramps up your appetite. It also makes you more impulsive, and less able to resist the fries and other temptations on the menu. So when you stay away from alcohol, the number on your scale may well start moving down.

Your Relationships May Improve

Enjoying alcohol socially in reasonable amounts can boost your mood and help you bond with others. But if you drink alone, or down multiple drinks a day, it could turn into an unhealthy habit. If you can’t control it, it may lead to a condition called alcohol use disorder. Giving up drinking may let you focus on your relationships, work, and health. It also may ease any depression and anxiety and elevate your self-esteem.

Lower Cancer Risks (Maybe)

It’s clear that alcohol, and heavy drinking in particular, can up your chances of several types of cancers, including in your esophagus (food pipe), mouth, throat, and breast. What’s less clear is if quitting alcohol lowers your chances for cancer and, if so, how long it might take. Some studies suggest potential benefits, but scientists don’t know for sure.

Your Sex Life Might Improve

A bit of alcohol may make couples friskier. But anything more than a drink or so a day has the opposite effect, especially if you abuse or are addicted to alcohol. Men might have trouble getting and keeping an erection. Women’s sex drive might drop, and their vagina might get drier. Cut down on the booze, and see if it stirs up the romance.

You’ll Sleep Better

Alcohol might get you drowsy at first. But once you fall into slumber, it can wake you up repeatedly in the night. Plus, it disrupts the important REM stage of sleep and may interfere with your breathing. You also may need to get up more often to pee. Try skipping alcohol, especially in the late afternoon and evening, for more restful shut-eye.

You’ll Get Sick Less

Even just one bout of drinking too much may weaken your body’s germ-fighting power for up to 24 hours. Over time, large amounts of alcohol blunt your immune system and your body’s ability to repair itself. Ease up on drinking so you may better ward off illnesses.

Lower Your Blood Pressure

If you drink a lot and your blood pressure is too high, you might be able to bring your numbers back down to normal by doing one simple thing: giving up alcohol. Even simply easing back on drinks can have a big payoff. Talk to your doctor about your numbers. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80. You have high blood pressure if yours is above 130/80.

Clear Your Brain

Alcohol dependence can make it harder to think or remember things. Over time, heavy drinking can cloud your perception of distances and volumes, or slow and impair your motor skills. It can even make it harder for you to read other people’s emotions. But if you quit, your brain seems to be able to regain some of these abilities.


If you’re a heavy drinker, your body may rebel at first if you cut off all alcohol. You could break out in cold sweats or have a racing pulse, nausea, vomiting, shaky hands, and intense anxiety. Some people even have seizures or see things that aren’t there (hallucinations). Your doctor or substance abuse therapist can offer guidance and may prescribe medication like benzodiazepines or carbamazepine to help you get through it.



Maintaining a healthy heart is important at any age, but maintaining heart healthy habits for seniors becomes even more important as the likelihood of heart illnesses increases as you age. Illnesses like heart disease, congestive heart failure, and heart attacks can potentially be avoided by taking actions to improve heart health.

To help keep your heart healthy- and happy- try using the following tips.

Stop Smoking

This is something often easier said than done, but if you want to see improvements to your heart health quitting smoking is the way to go. You can use patches, gum, nasal spray, inhalers, or lozenges to help with the cravings. Seeking help from a support group or finding support from friends and family can also help. Tobacco Free Life has a great guide to quitting smoking which you can find here.

Minimize Your Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol affects you differently as you age. The older you become, the ability for your body to clear alcohol decreases. In addition, certain medications that seniors are likely to be taking can get in the way with how the body metabolizes alcohol. Ask your doctor how your medication reacts with alcohol to determine the potential affects you could see when consuming alcohol. Reducing alcohol or eliminating it altogether can help reduce your blood pressure and risk to stroke, heart attack, and heart failure.

Exercise Daily

Another important way to keep your heart healthy is by exercising. If you are someone who rarely exercises, ask your doctor, who knows your overall health and any limitations you may have, for his or her recommendations on where to start.

Usually, the best place to start is simply walking. Start with a 10-minute walk 3-4 times a week until you can walk 30-40 minutes 3-4 times a week.

Light jogging is also a great exercise for seniors seeking a healthy heart. With jogging, start with a 10-minute jog until you can work your way up to 20 minutes.

Other great cardio exercises include light weight lifting, water aerobics, and yoga. Performing daily exercises or stretching can also help improve and maintain heart health.

Eat More Heart-Healthy Foods

It’s hard to completely transform your diet overnight, but starting small and working your way to a better diet can dramatically change your heart health as well as your overall health. Listed below are the types of food you should seek out to buy and others that you should avoid at the grocery store.

Buy:Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Find colourful fruits and vegetables. These will provide a large amount of vitamins, minerals, and fibre while being low in calories. Frozen fruits and vegetables without any added sugars can provide the benefits of fresh fruit while maintaining a lower cost. For the happiest of hearts, try to have at least 5 servings a day of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Nuts and High Fibre Foods

Fibre can be found in many foods like fruits, vegetables, whole-grain bread and cereal, and beans. However, nuts are one of the best places to get fibre, especially almonds and walnuts. For a healthy heart, eat at least 5 servings a week of nuts or high fibre foods.


High Fat Dairy or Meat

High fat dairy and meat contain saturated fats which increase your bad cholesterol levels. Ultimately, these high cholesterol levels can lead to clogged arteries which is a direct cause of many life threatening heart problems. Instead, look for leaner and reduced fat options for both dairy and meat.

Hydrogenated or Partially Hydrogenated Ingredients

These terms if listed on an ingredients list indicate that trans-fat is in the product. Oftentimes, you can find these ingredients in processed foods like cakes, biscuits, frozen pizza, and stick margarine to name a few. Trans fat raises your bad cholesterol levels and therefore increases the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and type two diabetes. Look for soft margarine as a butter substitute, limit the baked goods you eat that include trans-fat, use unhydrogenated vegetable oils like canola oil, and limit commercially fried foods and baked goods.

Sugary Beverages

Drinking soda and fruit juice dramatically increases the likelihood of someone developing coronary artery disease. These sugary drinks contain only sugar and no other nutritional value to your diet which changes how your body metabolizes food. Avoiding sugary beverages is the best way to limit the adverse effects sugary beverages have on your heart.


Avoid high sodium foods which can lead to high blood pressure and heart issues. Avoid buying products like deli meats, breakfast cereals, canned soup and vegetables, various condiments like ketchup, frozen meals, and bread.

Monitor Numbers with Regular Doctor Visits

As a senior, it is very important to maintain regular doctor visits for your heart health and overall health. Talking to your doctor will help you determine what areas of your health you need to improve and what steps should be taken to improve those areas depending on your specific situation. However, a few general numbers to strive for to help keep your heart healthy include:

  • Blood pressure- Less than 120/80 mmHG
  • Cholesterol- Total less than 200 mg/dL
  • Body Mass Index (BMI)- Less than 25 kg/m2
  • Waist Circumference- Less than 35 inches for women and less than 40 inches for men

Minimize Your Stress Levels

Long term or chronic stress can increase your blood pressure and ultimately lead to heart issues. Trying to minimize stress can also translate into finding new, enriching, and enjoyable activities. Try some of the activities listed below to help manage stress:

  • Meditation
  • Puzzles
  • Reading
  • Walking
  • Yoga
  • Breathing Exercises
  • Starting a New Hobby
  • Spending Time with Family and Friends



What Is Prodrome?

Sometimes called a pre-headache, this is when you might notice early warning signs of a migraine. It’s different for everyone and can start several hours or days before the headache fully hits. Try to note how you feel before each migraine and write it down in a journal so you’ll notice next time.

Most Common Signs

While not everyone feels the same things during prodrome, some symptoms happen more often than others. For example, you may yawn a lot, or you might need to pee more often. You could crave certain sweet foods more than usual, especially chocolate. If you have a bit of chocolate then get a migraine, you might think that caused it. But it may have just been a craving that was warning you a migraine was on the way.


Some people get irritable or depressed in the days or hours before a migraine. On the opposite end of the scale, some people feel a sense of intense happiness, or euphoria, in the hours beforehand.


You may feel unusually tired before a migraine. And too much or too little sleep could help bring one on. Pay attention to how sleep connects to your symptoms. That can help you stay away from your triggers and possibly keep a migraine from coming on.

Belly Problems

Prodrome can sometimes affect your digestive system. You may feel sick to your stomach or have constipation or diarrhea. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you treat those, but that probably won’t prevent a migraine.

Sensitivity to Light or Sound

These are common signs of a coming migraine, and they often continue through the headache and post-headache stages. Bright light or loud noises can even trigger a second one as you’re getting over the first.

Changes in Vision

As you get closer to a migraine, your vision may get blurry. You also might have blind spots or see flashing lights or shapes. These issues can slowly get worse, but they don’t usually last more than an hour.

What to Do:

Pain Relievers

Whether they’re prescription or over-the-counter, the trick is to take these as soon as you notice the telltale signs. The earlier you do, the better the results. But taking too much or taking them too often can cause stomach ulcers and possibly withdrawal headaches when you stop.

Have a Little Caffeine

Sometimes, this can stop some early stage migraine pain by itself. It also may help boost the effects of pain relievers like aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. Just don’t overdo it. Too much caffeine might lead to withdrawal headaches when you try to cut back. 


Teachers and therapists can help you get started, or you can just keep it simple. Take 10 minutes every day to breathe deeply and slowly as you relax each group of muscles in your body, one at a time. Afterward, sit quietly for a couple of minutes and clear your mind. That can help anytime, but it may be especially useful if you notice warning signs of a migraine.


Teachers and therapists can help you get started, or you can just keep it simple. Take 10 minutes every day to breathe deeply and slowly as you relax each group of muscles in your body, one at a time. Afterward, sit quietly for a couple of minutes and clear your mind. That can help anytime, but it may be especially useful if you notice warning signs of a migraine.

Lie Down in a Dark Room

This helps on two fronts. First, it calms and relaxes you, and that’s good when you want to fend off migraine pain. Second, it gets you away from bright light, which can make your symptoms worse.

Try Heat or Cold

A cold compress on your neck or head can numb the area and dull pain signals. A heating pad might relax tense muscles. (A warm bath or shower could do the same thing.) You might try going back and forth between the two



TYou might not think much about lying to your doctor, but one tiny omission could be the difference between a proper diagnosis and an inaccurate prognosis.

Your Past and Present Smoking Habits: The older you are, the more important it is that you inform your doctor about your smoking habits. According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer primarily occurs in older individuals, with the average lung cancer patient diagnosed at about 70 years-old. And even if you are a former smoker and no longer touch tobacco, you should still let your doctor know; unfortunately, it’s always possible that those bad decisions you made when you were younger are coming back to haunt you as an adult.

Your Age: Shaving a few years—or even a few decades—off of your age at the doctor’s office might feel more like stretching the truth than telling a lie, but it can ultimately prevent your doctor from doing their job properly. For instance, if you were to say you’re in your 30s instead of revealing that you’re actually in your late 40s, your doctor might mistake those hot flashes as a symptom of hyperthyroidism instead of a symptom of menopause.

Your Drinking Habits: ”Drinking is going to affect the body much more prominently in your 40s,” explains Dr. David Greuner of NYC Surgical Associates. Excessive drinking can cause a myriad of health issues that range from heart disease to hepatitis—but the more honest you are about your drinking habits, the better your odds will be. Patients who are diagnosed with alcoholic cirrhosis, for instance, have a five-year survival rate of 90 percent when they stop drinking compared to a five-year survival rate of 70 percent when they continue to hit the bottle. Plus, if your provider doesn’t know that you’re a heavy drinker, then they might just end up prescribing you something that really doesn’t mix well with alcohol—but by the time you know it, it’ll be too late. ” Always make sure you are 100 percent honest with your doctor about your alcohol intake,” says Greuner. “The response may be to cut down—which you may not want to hear—but it’s essential for your health moving forward.”

Your Family’s Medical History: Be careful not to leave out any details about your family’s medical history when you talk to your doctor—genetics can play a major role in your physical and mental health. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centernotes that “some people are genetically predisposed to developing certain types of cancer,” and folks with familial histories of cancer can benefit from getting genetic testing.

Your Medical and Surgical History: ”In spite of all the technology available today, the history is still the mainstay of diagnosis,” notes one report written in Physician Connection. “The impact of social, environmental, hereditary, and behavioural factors on patient well-being and illness must be realized in the patient’s history.” Everything from allergies to medications to previous surgeries can have an impact on a doctor’s diagnosis and course of treatment.

Your Weight: Typically, it’s impossible to lie to your doctor about how much you weigh, given that doctors’ offices have scales at the ready. But it’s important to tell your GP the truth about your size, even if you may be uncomfortable with it—especially if your weight borders on obese. Research published in the journal Pharmacotherapy, for instance, found that standard doses of certain antibiotics didn’t work for obese individuals. Remember: with your doctor, honesty is always the best policy.

Your Diet: Telling your doctor that you start every morning with a balanced breakfast when you’re really a regular at the McDonald’s drive-thru may result in unnecessary treatments and medications. As Brian Doyle, MD, of the UCLA School of Medicine explained to WebMD: “Telling the doctor you eat correctly when you really don’t could [result in] being prescribed a medication to control your cholesterol, for example. This could produce side effects and be less effective than simply continuing to have good eating habits.”

Your Symptoms: Patients don’t really lie about their symptoms so much as they simply forget to mention them—but everything you omit makes it harder for you to get an accurate diagnosis. Every symptom—even if it doesn’t seem like a symptom at all—brings your doctor closer to the cause of your pain and suffering—and likewise, anything you leave out can lead to a misdiagnosis.

Your Drug Use: Let this cautionary tale from American Academy of Family Physicians president Dr. John Cullen be a warning to you when it comes to being honest with your doctor about your drug use. Because one of his patients wasn’t upfront about the drugs he was taking, he was misdiagnosed with appendicitis and came dangerously close to getting his appendix removed for no reason.” Methamphetamine can sometimes present the same way as appendicitis,” says Dr. Cullen. “As we’re getting ready to take [the patient] to the operating room, I remember saying, ‘We’re about to cut you open here. Are you sure you don’t want to tell me anything else?’ That’s when we found out about the methamphetamine use. Indeed, that was the cause, and we stopped the surgery.”

Your Mental Health: Your physical and emotional pain have more in common than you think. Per one study published in The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, physical symptoms that commonly accompany depression include joint pain, back pain, stomach issues, fatigue, and appetite changes—just to name a few. And depression and anxiety aren’t always necessarily the primary diagnosis; in some scenarios, they’re merely symptoms of other serious health issues, like pulmonary embolisms and heart attacks.

The Severity of Your Pain: Your doctors and nurses ask you about your pain levels because they need to ensure that treatment is effective and appropriate. ” Unfortunately, [cancer] patients sometimes lie and mask certain troubling side effects out of fear that I may discontinue that particular treatment,” Kashif Ali, a medical oncologist with Maryland Oncology Haematology, explained to Prevention. “But oftentimes they can stay on the regimen, as long as I adjust the dose, or even switch to another treatment that’s just as effective.”

The Date of Your Last Period: The onset of menopause isn’t the only explanation for a missed period in middle age. As long as you’re still fertile, you can still get pregnant—so if your period doesn’t arrive, you should let your doctor know just to make sure that it is menopause and not a new wombmate.

Your Exercising Habits: People who don’t get enough exercise are often so embarrassed about this fact that they end up lying to their doctor about it. In fact, when Medicare surveyed some 1,239 patients, 37 percent of them admitted that they “usually” or “sometimes” lie to their healthcare providers about how much they diet or exercise. However, the last thing any good doctor is going to do is shame you for your habits—and if they don’t actually know how much activity you’re getting, then they don’t know how to properly assess—and alleviate—your issues. ”We’re not trying to shame you because you’re doing something wrong,” Dr. Isabel Valdez, an instructor at Baylor College of Medicine, explained. “If you’re not able to exercise because you’re working two jobs and you’re a caregiver to your mother with Alzheimer’s, I’m not going to shame you for not exercising. But tell me that so we can work around that and find another game plan.”

Your Sex Life: Of the 1,239 patients who took a Medicare survey, 32 percent admitted to lying to their doctor about their sex life. If you have an active sex life as you age—especially if you have multiple partners—it’s important to clue your doctor into your lifestyle. After all, research published in the International Journal of STD & AIDS found that “rates of sexually transmitted infections in older patients are increasing,” and more and more women over the age of 50 are likely to be diagnosed with HIV and trichomoniasis.

Your Supplement Regimen: ”Always tell the truth if you’re on any vitamins and herbs,” says Dr. Michelle C. Reed, a physician, health coach, and owner of MS Family Medicine Health Care, P.C. “Vitamins and herbs do have side effects and sometimes the side effects will affect the efficacy of prescription medicine.”

The Date of Your Last Check-Up: When your doctor is looking at your previous bloodwork and test results, they need to know precisely how old that information is. Why? When you reach your 40s and 50s, you need to start getting tested regularly for things like colorectal cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis, but lying about the date of your last check-up can lead your doctor to skip the very tests that might just save your life.

How Often You Use the Restroom: Is it awkward to talk about how often you defecate and the solidity of your stools? Absolutely. However, it’s also a necessity, at least when it comes to conversations with your doctor. Irregular bowel movements become more common with age, and without proper medical care, constipation and diarrhoea don’t always clear up on their own. In fact, long-term blockage can lead to serious complications like rectal prolapse and fecal impaction that require surgery and a stint in the hospital.

How Much Shut-Eye You Get: While sleep deprivation is never good, it’s especially detrimental to the over-40 community. Studies have shown that individuals over 40 who don’t get enough sleep are unintentionally advancing the aging of their mind and body—so much so, in fact, that in 2015 Public Health England started a campaign to inform over-40 folks about the perils of skimping on sleep. Inadequate amounts of shut-eye can cause everything from type 2 diabetes to hypertension, so make sure that you’re being candid with your doctor about your sleep schedule.

Taking Prescribed Medications: If your doctor previously prescribed you something like a cholesterol medication or sleeping pills and you’re not actually taking them, it’s better to be honest about it than to lie just to avoid an uncomfortable situation. “If you are not taking your medicine as directed, your provider may increase or add another medicine and it might not be a necessary addition,” explains Reed.

Your Financial Situation: The United States might technically be one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but that doesn’t mean that each and every one of its citizens has boatloads of money to spend on healthcare. On the contrary, the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation reports that a staggering 27.4 million non-elderly individuals were uninsured in 2017—and this isn’t even taking into account the individuals who have healthcare and still can’t afford their procedures and pills. Given how many people don’t have healthcare, it’s not especially surprising that many a patient will lie to their doctors about their financial situation. In Medicare’s survey, 1 in 4 people noted that they often lie to their providers about how much healthcare they can afford, both out of embarrassment and out of what they feel is necessity. However, patients pretending that they can pay for medications and services when they can’t be a huge issue. When doctors aren’t accurately aware of a patient’s financial situation, they can’t work with them to figure out an affordable way to get them the care they need. And in the case of patients pretending to be someone else in order to use their health insurance, the issue isn’t just medical, but also legal.

Complying with the Doctor’s Orders: Don’t worry about offending your doctor when you admit to them that you actually haven’t been abiding by their recommendations. Sure, that conversation isn’t going to be fun, but it’s better than pretending that you have been doing everything you’re supposed to and putting your health at risk. ”A forty-something patient who is on medication for blood pressure or cholesterol but has never had a heart attack or stroke might not see the need to take their medication daily,” explains Fred Ralston, an internal medicine specialist with Fayetteville Medical Associates in Tennessee. “At times, I may seem doom and gloom, but I also seem people on the other side of that ledge and it changed their lives, so I try to get my patients to take it more seriously.”

Your Travel History: Where you travelled recently and how you got there could be the key to diagnosing some of your more perplexing health symptoms. If you just got back from a nine-hour plane ride and you’re experiencing severe leg cramps, for instance, then you might be suffering from a serious complication called deep vein thrombosis. And though malaria isn’t commonly contracted in the United States, it’s still relatively common in parts of Africa, Asia, and Central and South America.

Your Pain Threshold: ”Patients sometimes lie to their medical professionals about their pain threshold or symptoms in order to get their hands on a stronger medication,” says Jocelyn Nadua, a registered practical nurse and care coordinator at C-Care Health Services. “Nurses and doctors can assess the situation best, so it’s important for patients to be as honest as possible about their conditions with them in order to receive the proper care and medications suited to their needs.”

Any Diagnoses from “Alternative Practitioners”: Your doctor needs to know about all of the diagnoses you’ve been given in the past—especially if they were made by alternative doctors who aren’t necessarily doing any proper testing. “Diagnoses made by alternative practitioners can cause genuine doctors lots of problems, particularly when they go along with certain fashion trends,” explains Dr. Laurence Gerlis, a private practitioner and CEO of SameDayDoctor. “Actually being ‘gluten intolerant,’ for instance, is rare, yet it is extremely fashionable at the moment, as is having adrenal disease.”

Any Diagnoses from “Alternative Practitioners”: Your doctor needs to know about all of the diagnoses you’ve been given in the past—especially if they were made by alternative doctors who aren’t necessarily doing any proper testing. “Diagnoses made by alternative practitioners can cause genuine doctors lots of problems, particularly when they go along with certain fashion trends,” explains Dr. Laurence Gerlis, a private practitioner and CEO of SameDayDoctor. “Actually being ‘gluten intolerant,’ for instance, is rare, yet it is extremely fashionable at the moment, as is having adrenal disease.”

Your Sunscreen Use: It might feel like your dermatologist is being a nag when they ask you how often you wear sunscreen, but they’re only doing so because they don’t want you to develop skin cancer. And it’s all the more important that you’re honest about your sunscreen usage as you get older, as the Canadian Cancer Society reports that most cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are seen in patients between 80 and 90 years old, while melanoma is most often diagnosed at just 63.

Your Past Pregnancies: A surprising number of women lie to their healthcare providers about their previous abortions and/or pregnancies—14 percent, to be precise. However, both of these things are essential information for your doctor. Long after giving birth, moms can still experience hormonal imbalances, iron deficiencies, depression, and more, so make sure your doctor’s clued in.

Your Sexual Orientation: It might not seem like your sexual orientation is relevant at a routine check-up, but knowing this pertinent relationship information can better help your doctor diagnose you. Though many diseases are equally prevalent in all communities, others tend to be found more frequently in LGBTQ individuals. For instance, gay and bisexual men accounted for 83 percent of primary and secondary syphilis cases in 2014, according to the CDC

Your Oral Hygiene: While you might not think that a white lie about your oral hygiene matters, something as simple as bad breath can be a sign of serious inflictions like chronic kidney disease, cancer, or an infection. And since gum disease has been linked to heart disease—the number one cause of death worldwide—it’s important that you’re forthright about your brushing and flossing habits.

Your Relationship Problems: Sure, your primary care physician isn’t your therapist, but that doesn’t mean you should keep them in the dark about what’s going on in your personal life. Why? “Stress can have many effects on the body and the mind,” Dr. Jonathan Kerr, a family physician and the president of the Ontario College of Family Physicians, explained to Best Health. “If your physician is not aware of what’s going on in your life, he or she can’t do anything to help you.”

Your Relationship with Food: If you think that eating disorders only affect teens and twentysomethings, think again. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, approximately 13 percent of women over the age of 50 partake in eating disorder behaviours. At least one person dies from eating disorder every hour or so, so don’t lie about habits like restricting, binging and purging, or laxative abuse if your doctor asks.

The Strength of Your Memory: You can run from dementia, but you can’t hide. By 2060, researchers believe that some 13.9 million individuals 65 and older in the United States will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The good news? While there isn’t a cure yet for Alzheimer’s or dementia, there are things that you can do to keep your mind sharp and healthy, even after a diagnosis—and the more forthright you are with your doctor about your memory issues, the faster you can start an appropriate treatment plan.

How Much Water You Drink: Typical symptoms of dehydration include dry skin, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, and muscle cramps. The problem? Symptoms like these are hardly life-threatening, so people will often ignore them instead of figuring out their cause. However, dehydration itself can be a life or death issue—according to research from the Office of National Statistics, 48 individuals in nursing homes died of dehydration in England and Wales between 2013 and 2017 alone. And since older individuals often have a difficult time distinguishing dehydration symptoms from symptoms of aging, it’s important to let your doctor know just how much water you’re drinking.

Your Hearing: Hear us out when we say that you should be honest with your doctor about how much you can (and can’t) hear. Though you might feel ashamed to admit that your hearing isn’t as sharp as it once was, you can take solace in the fact that approximately one-third of all adults between the ages of 65 and 74 suffer from some degree of hearing loss. The sooner your healthcare provider knows about your aural impairment; the sooner they can work on finding you a remedy.

Any Visual Impairments: Get ready to see your optometrist more frequently than some of your friends once you hit 40. According to the American Optometric Association, this is the age when people “start to have problems seeing clearly at close distances, especially when reading and working on the computer.” Though it is possible to go through life squinting and struggling to see, failing to correct your vision can cause headaches and may even make you more prone to falling or accidents while driving—and at the end of the day, feeling embarrassed for a few seconds is better than putting your safety in jeopardy.

Your Compliance with Physical Therapy Recommendations: ”It’s important to be truthful about performing your physical therapy exercises because a diligent supervised physical therapy program can oftentimes help with the healing of an injury,” explains Steve Yoon, M.D., a physiatrist and director of the Regenerative Sports and Joint Clinic at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute. “Not rehabilitating frequently enough may not stimulate healing and it can also inhibit support and strength that is needed to compensate for an injury.”

Losing Your Medication: Far too many patients lie to their doctors about “losing” their pain medications because they’ve taken more than the recommended dose and are now dependent on the drug. Not only is this illegal, but it’s also wrong and “develops a sense of mistrust between the patient and physician,” says Dr. Yoon. In order to avoid this scenario, the physiatrist relies on “open communication about the debilitating effects of pain and realistic expectations for pain control”—but in order to do this, his patients have to be just as honest with him as he is with them.

Your Fear of Going to the Doctor: Yes, even grown adults are allowed to be scared of the doctor. In fact, with all of the maladies that plague the older population, one could argue that adults are even more entitled to this fear! If you do get nervous about your visits to the doctor’s office, though, make sure that you’re honest about your worries so that you can address and possibly even overcome them. Otherwise, your provider might accidentally do something to make you even more afraid without realizing it, making you less likely to seek care when you need it in the future.

Your Profession: Depending on what you do for a living; you might be putting yourself in harm’s way without even knowing it. Flight attendants, for instance, are more likely to develop skin cancer and breast cancer, according to one study published in Environmental Health. And workers who are regularly exposed to asbestos are much more at risk of developing mesothelioma, notes one study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Your Pets: Fido is just as relevant to your medical history as any other member of your family. Though our furry friends don’t mean to, they can spread diseases to us that range from ringworm and salmonellosis to leptospirosis and giardia. And if you have a good boy or girl at home, make sure you check out these 15 Life Lessons You Can Learn From Your Dog. To discover more amazing secrets about living your best life, click here to follow us on Instagram!

Pin It on Pinterest