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Health stats that twenty-somethings shouldn’t ignore anymore

Taking care of your health

For those of us who have been blessed with good health thus far, our yearly checkups at the doctor’s office are generally smooth sailing.  It isn’t a scary place, yet, because we know there’s a good chance everything is still ticking along just fine. But it’s only a matter of time before our skipped workouts and feasts at the Chinese buffet catch up with us, so it’s time we learn about the health risks we face as young adults. Because, let’s be honest, hangovers and weight gain are not the only risks that overindulgence carries.

Your uncle Marvin has high blood pressure, but did you ever think you’d need to worry about it, too? Surprisingly, nearly one in five young adults aged 24 to 32 have high blood pressure. So, the next time a doctor wraps the sphygmomanometer around your arm, you might want to pay attention to the numbers it reads. A healthy blood pressure is below 120/80. The top number represents the pressure as the heart is beating, while the bottom measures the pressure between beats. If your blood pressure is above 120/80, you are at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke. Reducing sodium, limiting alcohol, and planning some quality time at the gym are all great ways to keep your blood pressure in check.

Diabetics aren’t the only ones who need to think about their blood sugar levels. Blood sugar is exactly what it sounds like — the amount of glucose (sugar) coursing through your body.  If you keep tabs on it now, you may be preventing diabetes later in life. A normal fasting rate should fall between about 70 and 100 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter), which you can test yourself with a simple finger prick before you eat breakfast.  If you’re exercising, eating every two to three hours, and limiting your Ben & Jerry’s binges, your blood sugar should be A-okay.

Who else remembers checking their resting heart rate in middle school biology class? I never thought I’d care to figure out that number again, but it turns out our resting heart rate is a great way to gauge overall health. If your heart rate is somewhere between 60 and 100, you’re doing fine. You can measure your resting heart rate by finding your pulse, counting the number of beats in fifteen seconds, and multiplying that number by four.

Okay, I admit it. Almost everything I knew before about cholesterol, I learned from a Cheerio’s commercial. But in our twenties, we really should know a little more, considering high cholesterol as a young adult is correlated with heart disease later in life. The number we’re looking for is at or below 200 mg/dL for LDL cholesterol, and at least 40 mg/dL of HDL cholesterol. If you want to keep your cholesterol levels in line, try loading up your plate with fresh fruits and whole grains, eating oatmeal for breakfast, and getting your sweat on.

You may not think you need to consider these health stats already, but keeping them in mind before you’re at risk may keep you from developing a serious problem later on.  As nice as it is to live in ignorant bliss, let’s face it; we won’t be “feeling 22” forever.

About the Author

Natalee Desotell

Natalee graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013 with a triple major in Political Science, International Politics & Economics, Languages & Cultures of Asia, and a minor in Global Public Health. After a couple years in the working world, she recently returned to her alma mater to study Cartography and Geographical Information Systems. A self-proclaimed public health nerd, her dream job is to communicate epidemiological information visually through beautiful interactive maps and graphics. She enjoys iced black coffee, punk rock music, and surprising people.

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