A young woman sits on the ground and works on her laptop.
Young women can set themselves up for success in the long term. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

I watch my patients develop from adolescents into young women, and eventually into adults.

In this blog, we are taking a look at young women, and how their priorities and health issues are different from our midlife and menopause patients. They often don’t realize that the choices they make in their 20s can affect how they look and feel later in life.

We would expect college-age women to feel relatively healthy and not be restricted by chronic conditions at this point in their lives. For most women in their 20s, this is true.

However, I am starting to see more patients in this age range who are struggling with health issues that result from their busy and stressful lives. They may be dealing with the stress of going to college and working to help pay for college. Or, maybe they have recently graduated and feel the pressure to find the perfect job after graduation.

Whatever the reason, they are so busy dealing with their day-to-day stresses, they often have a hard time understanding the need to engage in health promotion.

However, the important concept of Picture of Self we’ve discussed as it applies to menopause patients is also true for our patients in their college years. It’s crucial for young women to be aware of their goals and the challenges they encounter, keeping in mind that the decisions they make now will affect their future selves—who they become and the opportunities that will be open to them.

Young women who are self-aware and motivated have a unique opportunity to direct the course of their adult lives by making wise decisions as early as adolescence. For example, a young woman should consider:

  • being counseled on the different forms of birth control available to help prevent pregnancy and control irregular periods
  • becoming educated on the importance of using condoms to prevent sexually transmitted diseases
  • visiting a health care provider at least once annually for a checkup and to be screened for STDs
  • doing monthly breast self-exams
  • consuming adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D while her bone density is still increasing
  • developing a healthy diet and exercise plan that she can follow now and into adulthood in order to avoid obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes

The bottom line is that it’s never too late (or too early) to engage in health behaviors. In fact, the sooner, the better.