Health Screenings: Here Are 5 Key Health Exams Millennials Should Have This Year by Dr. Niket Sonpal
With more and more millennials skipping out on annual health exams in favor of a quick, as needed, visit to an urgent care facility, doctors fear the largest generation in America may overlook serious health issues. There are 83 million Americans between ages 22 and 37 and according to a November 2018 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 45 percent of those 18-29 and 28 percent of those age 30-39 do not have a primary care physician. The issue is that health conditions that can be caught early may slip through the cracks.
You’re looking at a generation with incredible debt and many don’t have jobs with health insurance. In addition to the financial aspect, this is a generation raised on the Internet. When we got sick as kids, our moms searched for answers online. If we went to the doctor, it was a day of missed school and boring waiting rooms. Now as adults, millennials want, fast affordable solutions and often take a DIY approach to health.
Healthcare has become an expensive hassle millennials choose to avoid. They would much rather FaceTime or text a doctor as opposed to miss work hours. They prefer to just walk into an urgent care clinic, pay $40 and be done with it, fast. The problem, though, is that while this approach may be OK for treating a sore throat or flu, millennials might be missing an opportunity to nip a bigger problem early on.
I want to urge all millennial women to get women’s wellness (a pap smear and breast exam) as well as a screening for STDs and bloodwork. HPV can lead to cervical cancer, so it’s important to monitor dysplasia. Here are five other health exams millennials should get this year:
- Blood Pressure Screenings: It's a good idea to get blood pressure checked out at least once every two years and every year if the top number is 120 to 139 and bottom between 80 to 89. High blood pressure is linked to diabetes, which is really hitting millennials hard. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2001 and 2015 teen obesity rates rose 30 percent. As kids, millennials were part of a supersize culture. Millennials also didn’t spend a lot of time going outside to play until the streetlights came on, as Gen Xers did. This all can add up to diabetes and heart disease if not monitored.
- Eye Exams: Millennials were raised on technology and their eyes are reaping the cost of this. It’s estimated that millennials spend more than 12 hours per day consuming media, with a majority of it on mobile devices on screens held closer to the eye. This leads to “nearsightedness” or “shortsightedness,” where the eye weakens and can’t see clearly at a distance. A lot of millennials may find themselves squinting to see things that are further away, they may have dull headaches and find themselves rubbing their eyes frequently. A lot of millennials may be popping ibuprofen for headache associated with eye strain and neck ache from prolonged computer jobs. This can then lead to stomach issues.
- IBS and Digestive Screenings: We also need to consider that the food we eat today is full of antibiotics and hormones. Millennials are a generation whose diet may have been primarily full of processed foods. We see a lot of Celiac disease (intolerance of gluten). A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that from the mid-1980s to 2013, the incidence of colon cancer has been rising fastest for people between the ages of 20 and 29, by 2.4 percent per year. The issue here is that we have millennials self-treating stomach issues that can be the start of something serious. If you’re experiencing chronic stomach pain, see a doctor. Gut health is incredibly important for overall well-being.
- Mental Health Screening: Millennials are one stressed out generation. According to Psychology Today, suicide rates among young adults have tripled since the 50s, with millennials are reporting a sense of “faking it until they make it.” The problem is they may feel disconnected from themselves and wrong for the life they are living. They feel as if they are not enough and then they scroll on their Instagram feeds and see people their age with luxury watches or exotic travel, and they may feel hopeless, stressed and depressed. They may be popping Xanax or smoking marijuana to take the edge off. The good news is that millennials are willing to discuss their feelings. Studies show that this is the first generation who doesn’t see any stigma about seeing a therapist or mentor/coach. Sometimes a break up or a layoff can trigger a downward spiral into depression or even drug or alcohol addiction.
- Annual Exam and Immunizations: It’s recommended that you get the flu shot every year. Another important vaccine is for HPV, which was mentioned earlier. The HPV vaccine has expanded coverage and is important to prevent certain types of cancer. Other vaccines may also be recommended depending on your health history. The only way you know is by having a yearly physical.
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