Living healthy, millennial-style
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Confident. Connected. Open to change.
If you relate to this description, you are probably a millennial, one of the nearly 80 million Americans born between 1982 and 2003. The millennials have surpassed the baby boomers as the largest generation in history.
Millennials are fortunate in many ways. Modern medicine has reduced the incidence of infectious diseases that caused widespread death and disability in previous generations. However, as a group, the lifestyle trends of millennials are causing adults to develop serious, chronic diseases at younger and younger ages.
To live a healthy life, millennial-style, you should know the top health challenges of your generation.
Obesity. In the early 1970s, only 8 percent of adults 18 to 29 were obese. Now, approximately 30 percent are. The longer you are obese, the more likely you will eventually develop heart disease and diabetes.
Digital wear and tear. “Text neck” and “gorilla arm” may sound like characters in a superhero movie, but they refer to some of the digital-related health issues of this generation. Four out of 10 millennials spend at least nine hours a day on “screen time.” They are increasingly suffering neck, back, arm and wrist pain; nearsightedness; hearing problems; sleep disruptions; and even brain shrinkage associated with too much screen time.
Autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases cause your immune system (which is supposed to protect you) to mistakenly attack your body’s cells, damaging joints and organs. There are about 80 types of autoimmune diseases. Women, especially those of childbearing age, suffer disproportionately from autoimmune diseases, and they are a leading cause of death among young and middle-aged women.
Mental health. Mental health disorders are among the top disabilities worldwide, and about three-quarters of all lifetime cases of diagnosable mental disorders begin by age 24. Major depression, panic disorder and anxiety disorders can “lead to suicide attempts, substance abuse, self-harm, eating disorders and behavioral difficulties,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Suicide is the second highest cause of death in people 15 to 34.
Take charge today for long-term health
The risk factors that cause severe, chronic illnesses generally begin in childhood and early adulthood, so the time to prevent future health problems is now. Here are a few strategies for staying healthy.
Develop a relationship with a primary healthcare provider. Millennials tend to rely heavily on online health resources and social networks for health information and often skip going to the doctor. Developing a relationship with a trusted healthcare provider who knows your medical history can help you stay healthy and prevent illnesses as you move through adulthood.
Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a chronic disease, not a weakness of character. If you are overweight or obese, talk to your doctor about a successful weight loss plan.
Move. In addition to regular aerobic exercise (shoot for 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity) and twice-weekly strength training, make it a point to move frequently throughout the day.
Eat a healthy diet. Your doctor or a nutritionist can provide specific guidance, but a healthy diet revolves around primarily plant-based foods and lean protein sources. You don’t have to give up your favorite treats – just eat them less frequently or in smaller portions.
Use technology safely and to improve your health. Take frequent breaks from using electronic devices and learn how to prevent strain and repetitive stress injuries. For example, switch hands when texting and hold your phone in front of your face to reduce the strain on your neck from constantly looking down.
Seek early treatment for autoimmune diseases. Treating autoimmune diseases as soon as possible helps prevent irreversible, long-term damage and slows disease progression.
Get help for depression, anxiety and other mental health problems. These conditions are common and highly treatable. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help.
Don’t smoke or use tobacco products, or if you already do, quit. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. If you won’t quit for yourself, do it for the people you love.
Make an appointment with a healthcare provider to learn which screenings are best for you.