Will the habits I have now really make a difference when I'm older?
Yes, 65% of all deaths in adults are caused by heart disease, cancer and stroke. In many cases, these diseases were preventable. Many of the behaviors that cause these diseases begin at a young age. For example, if you use tobacco as a teenager, you're more likely to get heart disease, cancer or stroke when you're an adult.
What can I do now to keep myself healthy?
- Avoid using any type of tobacco product. Try not to breathe second hand cigarette smoke.
- Get regular exercise.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Always use your seat belt.
- Don't drink and drive. Don't get into a car with a driver who has been drinking alcohol or using drugs.
- Wear protective headgear, such as motorcycle or bike helmets, when participating in sports.
- Never swim alone.
- Talk to your parents or your doctor if you're feeling really sad or if you're thinking about harming yourself.
- Avoid situations where violence or fighting may cause you to be physically injured.
- If you have sex, use condoms to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. (Remember, however, the "safest" sex is no sex.)
- See your doctor regularly.
What might my doctor do?
The doctor might do any of the following to help you stay healthy:
- Determine your risk for certain health problems.
- Measure your height, weight, cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
- Order tests to check your general health or to find certain diseases.
- Provide immunizations ("shots" or "vaccines") to reduce your risk of getting diseases such as mumps, tetanus and hepatitis.
At my age, what should I especially be concerned about?
Car accidents, unintentional physical injury, homicide and suicide are the top killers of teenagers and young adults. Cancer and heart disease can also affect you at this age. Unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV and AIDS) can cause you social and personal problems, in addition to harming your health.
Do young men have different health risks than young women?
Yes. Young men don't wear seat belts as often as young women do. They're also more likely to carry weapons, to get into physical fights, to use smokeless tobacco or marijuana, to drink alcohol heavily, and to have more sexual partners. On the other hand, young women have some special risks. They try to commit suicide more often and they try to lose weight in harmful ways more often than young men.
Should I talk to my doctor if I'm worried about my health or my body?
Yes. It's important to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your health or your body. Your doctor is there to help you.
Implementing the Guidelines for Adolescent Preventive Services by NJ Montalto (American Family Physician May 01, 1998, http://www.aafp.org/afp/980501ap/montalto.html)
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff