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Graduating Teens, The Time to Get Healthy is Now!

September 28, 2017

When you’re 18 years old and you’ve just graduated from high school, it’s easy to feel like you’re invincible. You can run down to the park and play basketball for hours and you only need a couple hours of rest before you’re ready to do it again. That’s why, for teens, “now” is the best time to start developing healthy lifestyle habits. In fact, “now” is the easiest time in your life to start a fitness regimen because, at this age, you don’t get that sore to begin with and you recover quickly.

“Now” is also the most important time to start establishing these healthy attitudes because, for most teens, graduation means you start making a lot of your own decisions, especially about what you eat. This is especially true for kids who are going out of town to college. While most colleges offer plenty of healthy options in their meal plans, there are a lot of other options to choose from and your Mom and Dad aren’t there to tell you what to do. This is why many students gain weight their first year, commonly known as “The Freshman 15.”

If you get in the habit of eating a healthy diet as a young adult, those habits are more likely to last. On the other hand, if your entire diet consists of drive-through fast food, sugary snacks and chips from a vending machine, the bad habits you create will most likely come back to haunt you later in life.

Taking Charge of Your Healthcare… It’s Part of Growing Up

When you’re a kid, your parents handle all your healthcare needs. They schedule appointments with your pediatrician. They make sure you’re taking your medications on schedule. If you get hurt or sick, they get you to a doctor or an emergency room. Once you reach 18 years old, though, you’re a legal adult. In fact, at that point, your parents can no longer call your doctor and ask for information. In other words, this is the perfect time to take control of your healthcare needs. Start with the following:

  • Start seeing an adult physician. Most pediatricians stop seeing patients at age 18, although some stop at 21. So it’s time to find a general physician of your own. If you’re not moving away, you can see the doctor your parents see.
  • Learn your health history and understand it. You will be asked about it, so it’s important to know whether you’ve had the chicken pox or measles, and what vaccinations you’ve had. You also need to know the basic details of any surgeries, injuries or major illnesses you may have had during childhood.
  • Know what you’re allergic to. This is really important because you might be allergic to certain medications and you don’t want your doctor to prescribe them. Plus, your doctor needs to know about all your allergies to provide the right treatment.
  • Understand any prescriptions you take. You should have a solid understanding of what you take, including the dosages, and why you’re taking them.
  • Know where the closest emergency room is. In some cases, it’s important to be able to make a quick decision on where to go if you’re sick or injured. The last thing you want to do is fumble around trying to figure out where the nearest ER is.
  • Learn the basics of your health insurance and how it works. Your parents can help you with this. You need to know what insurance pays for and what payments you’re responsible for.

Health Tips For Teens and Young Adults

One of the most important things you can do for your health at this age is get enough sleep. It is estimated that, on average, teens need between eight and ten hours of sleep per night. However, recent studies have shown that only about 15 percent of teens report getting 8½ hours of sleep on the average school night. While the science about sleep is not fully understood, we know that sleep is critical to brain health and other physiological functions.

The food you eat is also a critical part of your overall health. One of the best ways for teens to understand this is if they learn the basics of cooking. If you’re a parent, teach your teens how to steam vegetables and how to prepare chicken or fish. They don’t need to be a gourmet chef, but it’s helpful if they know more about the kitchen than how to use the microwave.

If you’re going away to college, your healthcare may need some planning. For example, if you’re taking any prescriptions, it’s important that you know what to do when you run out, which includes having your prescriptions transferred to a local pharmacy. Also, prescriptions eventually expire, even ones that are long-term. If you look at the label on your medicine, you’ll see a line that reads something like, “May refill 3X by December 2017.” That means that after three more refills, or after December 2017, your physician needs to re-issue the prescription. Talk to your doctor and ask how prescriptions will be updated when they expire.

Also, if you have chronic issues, such as epilepsy or diabetes, it’s important that you tell someone about your condition, how to recognize if you’re having a health issue that requires immediate attention and what to do about it. If you’re in a dorm, talk to your resident adviser. Or let your roommates know about it. Finally, don’t wait until the week before you leave town to start planning. Some of your planning may take a few days or longer. If you get it done early, you won’t be stressing out about it at the last minute.

Good health is part attitude, part knowledge and part skill. You have to make a commitment to having the right attitude about taking care of your mind and body. Then you have to learn what kind of habits lead to good health and which ones to avoid. Finally, like any skill, it’s something you have to learn over time with practice. Why not start “now?”

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