20s — Skin cancer, vitamin D deficiency are concerns

20s — Skin cancer, vitamin D deficiency are concerns

Unlike many people her age, Carol Taylor, 26, has access to a good insurance plan that focuses on preventative care and wellness.

That’s important for Taylor, who has a family history of skin cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.

“I know I’m lucky,” she said. “Among my peer group, not only am I relatively well informed. I also have health insurance, which a lot of my friends don’t have.”

Another thing that’s unusual for someone her age is that Taylor has never had the normal vaccinations that young children generally receive.

“My family is anti-vaccination, so I received my first vaccination in 2009,” she said.

Taylor has also never had a flu shot, although it’s recommended yearly for all adults.

She’s been married for the past five years, but as yet she and husband don’t have children. Taylor works at Disability RMS in Westbrook and said she benefits from her company’s comprehensive wellness programs.

She has an annual physical, an annual eye exam and goes to the dentist every six months for a cleaning and checkup.

“I think it’s very important to go to the dentist. I think that’s something a lot of people neglect,” Taylor said.

Because of her family history of skin cancer, Taylor is very careful in the sun. She uses a daily moisturizer with sunscreen and never goes to a tanning booth.

Because she’s so careful about her sun exposure and because she doesn’t eat a lot of dairy, Taylor was recently diagnosed with a severe vitamin D deficiency.

“I was moody and really tired all the time. I didn’t realize you don’t get enough vitamin D even if you ate yogurt and drank milk every day,” she said.

Two of the biggest health risks to people in their 20s are skin cancer and sexually transmitted diseases. Because of her sexual history and the fact that she’s now married, Taylor said she hasn’t been tested for STDs nor has she received the HPV vaccination, which is available to women up to age 26.

However, she does receive a regular pelvic exam and said she also performs breast self-exams.

Another thing Taylor does to remain healthy is to try and eat right and get exercise. Since her work schedule can be hectic, Taylor takes the time to attend two yoga classes a week. She also tries to get out and walk or run several times a week after work.

Her office has a gym on site, so Taylor can do a regular cardio workout and strength exercises.

Because of her health plan, Taylor received cholesterol screening five years ago. She was surprised when the results came back on the high side, so she has worked on reducing her cholesterol levels ever since.

“I have no chronic conditions and am relatively healthy. My goal is to stay that way as I age,” Taylor said.

Health Screenings

(UNDER NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES)

• Two physical exams during your 20s

• Height and weight with each physical

• Cholesterol screening at first physical

• Blood pressure every two years

• Pelvic exam and Pap test beginning within three years of first having vaginal intercourse or by age 21. Repeat every two years

• If sexually active, HIV test at least once; chlamydia test yearly until 24; 25 and older, repeat test if have new or multiple partners

• Clinical breast exam by health care provider every three years; breast self-exam monthly

• Dental exam and cleaning yearly; floss daily

• Eye exam every two years, if have vision problems

Health Tips

Know your personal risks now and find out how to lower them.

If you make healthy lifestyle choices now – don’t smoke, drink in moderation, exercise daily, eat a healthy diet – you develop good habits that are easier to keep and you lower your risks later on.

Protect your skin. Don’t use a tanning bed because it increases the risk of developing malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Using a tanning bed regularly before age 30 increases risk of skin cancer by 75 percent.

Don’t forget to cover your head when you’re in the sun. Don’t assume because you’ve got sunscreen on your face and body that you’re totally protected. Your scalp is also vulnerable.

There is a high rate of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the 20s, so it’s important to practice safe sex and get tested. Safe sex means abstinence or using a condom.

At least half of sexually active people will get HPV (human papillomavirus), which is spread through genital contact, at some point in their lifetime; approximately 80 percent of women by age 50. There are more than 100 strains of HPV – 10 have been linked to cervical cancer. The vaccine Gardasil protects against two strains that cause 70 percent of cervical cancers and two strains that cause most genital warts.

Immunizations

• Tetanus-diphtheria and acellular pertussis (TdAP) – series of three shots after age 19 if never vaccinated before; booster shot every 10 years

• Human papillomavirus (HPV); series of three shots by age 26; best if before start having sexual intercourse

• Flu shot every year during flu season

• Chicken pox; two shots if you never had chicken pox or were never vaccinated before

• Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR); one or two shots if you have never been vaccinated; getting vaccinated against rubella is especially important if you plan to get pregnant

Carol Taylor

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