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Live A Healthier Life! 9 Health Problems To Be Aware Of In Your 20s

by Vivian KELLY Published on 9 October 2014
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Being young, healthy and fit is ideal but not exactly reality. From painful periods to achy feet and loose bowels, thousands of young adults suffer from these common symptoms. But could they mean something serious? You should never write something off as a 'one time thing'. Check out these 9 health problems every 20-something should be aware of and start getting familiar with your body!

Being young comes with benefits, yeah. Overall, we're healthier and fitter BUT that doesn't mean you're never going to have to face your GP.

From what we wear, to how much we exercise, to what we eat, ​our everyday lives have a knock on effect on what conditions we develop. And with 'work hard, play hard' lifestyles there's no doubt that many of us will suffer from something at some point or another.

That said, suffering in silence is not an option. From cervical cancer, tension-type headaches to Crohn's Disease, here are 9 health problems (in no particular order) that you need to know about NOW.

1. Endometriosis

If you often experience crippling period pangs or sharp achy pain in your abdomen it could be more than just a period from hell. Endometriosis is a common condition that affects one in ten women in the UK, but for some reason it's not widely known about. Never heard of it? We got it covered...

​Endometriosis is a condition where "the lining (that is supposed to be inside the uterus) is found outside of the uterus. Endometrial cells (AKA the uterine lining) are shed every month during menstruation so endometriosis is more likely to affect women during their child bearing years (19-26 years old)," says Dr Venkat at Harley Street Fertility Clinic's.

The most common symptoms to look out for include painful or heavy periods, pain in the abdomen, pelvis and back pain, pain during and after sex, infertility and fatigue. If swelling builds around your lower abdomen or grows around your bladder it could lead to pain during urination or even bowel movements so make sure to take note.

Endometriosis is not easy. It can affect your social life, intimacy and relationships. So don't brush off your symptoms! If you suspect you may be suffering from the condition visit your GP who will be able to take the appropriate steps in order to make a full diagnosis.

2. Tension-Type Headaches

Suffer from frequent nagging headaches? There are lots of reasons why you get a banging head. Stress, a lack of sleep, skipping a meal (naughty), dehydration...these are all things we're guilty of, but more often than not, people don't realise how much it can affect your health.

Six Physio's physiotherapist, Hayley Jasper says, "Tension Type Headaches are the most common type of headaches and are experienced by approximately HALF of adults.

"​They feel like a constant band of tightness or aching on both sides of the head but does not cause vomiting or sensitivity to light," she says.

Generally, headaches are pretty normal but if you're often suffering from them (several times a week) or the pain is severe it's best to consult a GP to exclude other causes for your headache. Be aware of how you feel.

3. Back pain

Sore and stiff? If your workday consists of hunching over a computer Every. Single. Day. Then you've probably faced some back pain at some point. But as common as it is, it's crucial to take note. Hunched shoulders and poor posture can affect your health in more ways than you can imagine, causing a forward head, rounded shoulders, and even a hunchback. No, thank you!

Hayley says, "Staying in one position can cause excessive strain on the respective spinal structures, often causing pain. Exercising and going to the gym can help prevent pain arising as it improves core strength and reduces the muscular imbalance of sedentary activities."

Fix your posture and ease your back pain by practising yoga, getting plenty of sleep, doing light exercises and using hot and cold therapy. If you're really struggling, consult your doctor for further testing. If necessary, your GP will be able to prescribe you with painkillers or refer you for psychical therapy. The earlier you spot it, the better the outcome. Remember it's all about prevention here.

4. Injuries from high intensity workouts

The high intensity work-out trend has swept the country this year (or the world for that matter) with people taking up exercises in High intensity Interval Training (HIIT), boot camps and indoor cycling. And while this is excellent for burning fat fast and getting our metabolisms revved up it can also cause some unwanted trouble.

Hayley says, "We've seen a lot of people trying high intensity work-outs that they find online or in an exercise DVD. They start with little to no baseline fitness or flexibility which can inhibit them from doing the exercises properly and lead to injury.

Also inadequate recovery time which is common amongst amateurs can cause extreme fatigue and often comes with painful injuries.

"​In particular, we see serious knee injuries caused by weak glutes, pelvic muscles or a lack of flexibility. Not being able to maintain knee alignment in a squat or lunge so the knee rotates is a simple sign that you may be need to improve your strength and flexibility."

So if you're about to start a high intensity program make sure to build up your endurance at least one month before. This way you'll be in good shape when you start. Also make sure to practice your form. If you're unsure get advice from a qualified instructor. Better safe than sorry.

5. Back & feet injuries

Take heart, you're not alone - most of us girls struggle with this! And even though we'd love to blame our new pair of 4-inch Jimmy Choos for our aches and pains they're not always to blame. A bit of knowledge about biomechanics (yup, we're getting technical) is all you need to survive those late nights...

"The most common causes of ache and pains in feet and back include lack of flexibility in toe joints, weak small muscles in the foot and the shift in the centre of gravity forwards at the hips, which puts extra pressure on the lower vertebra of the spine", says Hayley.

"​But there are exercises you can do to strengthen and increase the flexibility of your feet, as well as, improve posture to achieve the perfect ‘heel strike’". You might feel like an old lady but once you get your strengths right you'll be rocking those pumps than never before.

Another problem to consider: According to a study in the Journal of Experimental Biology women who often wear high heels (two inches or more and more than five days a week) are at risk of their calf muscles shrinking and tendons thickening, which can make it uncomfortable to wear flat shoes and flip flops!

Sprains, bunions, shrinking calf muscles, lower back pain - these are only a few of the consequences we might have to face. The key here? Strengthen your toesies and switch up your footwear (moderation is key).

6. Crohn’s Disease

Crohn's Disease can be tricky to spot because it has similar symptoms to other health problems. But for 20-somethings in particular, it's a condition in which we NEED to educate ourselves on. Here's what you need to know...

"Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory condition that can affect any part of the bowel from the mouth to the anus. Its prevalence is 30-50 cases per 100,000 people and the peak age is between 15 – 30 years of age," says Mr Colin Elton, Consultant Colorectal Surgeon at Spire Bushey Hospital.

This is why it's so important for young people to be aware of its symptoms​ so you can get to the bottom of your health issues quickly and effectively.

"​Symptoms of this disease include intermittent episodes of cramping abdominal pain, loose watery bowel motions, weight loss and sometimes blood in stools."

Sadly, there is no cure for this condition, but there are plenty of ways to ease the inflammation. If you have any of these symptoms and they're consistent, visit your GP for further examination. They will be able to refer you to the hospital to then see a bowel specialist to make a diagnosis.

7. Cervical Cancer

Dr John Green, consultant in medical oncology and specialist in gynaecological cancers at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre says, "Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops in a woman’s cervix and is the most common cancer in females under 35 in the UK."

But keep in mind, if you catch it early, your outlook is good. According to Dr Green younger women diagnosed with the disease have almost a 90 percent survival rate (five years or more after receiving the diagnosis ) compared with just over 66 per cent of older females. So tackling it early is key.

The majority of cervical cancer cases are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). But don't worry, there are more than 100 different types of HPV, most of them which are not harmful. However, if you do contract the virus it can disrupt the normal functioning of the cell's cervix triggering the onset of cancer.

From the age of 25, all UK women are invited to get a smear test. The reason they don't invite you earlier is to do with cells showing up abnormal (which usually clear up by the age of 25) and misdiagnosing the patient. So long as you don't have any symptoms associated with cervical cancer, it's best to wait until your 25 before getting a screening.

The main symptoms of cervical cancer include, unusual bleeding and spotting after sex or in-between periods, pain during sex and smelly vaginal discharge. If you have irregular periods for more than one cycle or unusual pelvic pain during or after sex go to your GP to get assessed.

8. Depression

Life is anything but easy when you're a young'un - unemployment, debts, exams, boyfriends - there's A LOT to put up with. And it's becoming more and more apparent. Nearly 80,000 young people suffer from severe depression each year. And according to research, young people reporting frequent feelings of depression or anxiety is on the up.

Coalition Co-ordinator at Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition, Paula Lavis says, "There are a number of reasons why a young person becomes depressed. The move from childhood to adulthood can be difficult for many young adults.

"​This is made increasingly difficult as they may have difficulties finding a job, being able to afford their own home, the stresses of higher education, and so on. Some young people, such as those who were brought up in care can’t fall back on their families during this time, so for them it may be even harder."

And with one in five people becoming depressed at some point in their lives it is essential that young adults seek help before it becomes chronic and enduring. Signs and symptoms to look out for include, tiredness and loss of energy, sadness that doesn't go away, loss of self-confidence and self-esteem, poor concentration, anxiousness, avoiding other people and close friends, loss of appetite and more seriously, self harm.

But remember, these symptoms are NOT ​conclusive so if you've been feeling blue and you're not sure why visit your GP who will be more than happy to talk this through with you. It might also help speaking to your family, partner or friends as depression is often hard to come to terms with and not always an easy subject to talk about. The first step of beating depression is recognising it. You're not alone.

9. Heart Disease

Imagining someone dying from a cardiac arrest in their 20s is a frightening thought. But the truth is, sudden cardiac death in young people is more common than you'd think.

In 80% of young sudden deaths there are NO prior symptoms which is why it's so important to be aware of the symptoms and act before it's too late.

Dr Steve Cox, Deputy Chief Executive of Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), says, "Young sudden cardiac death is caused by many different conditions not all of which are genetic. Our pioneering screening programme currently tests around 15,000 young people every year and about one in every 300 people we test has a potentially life threatening condition identified.

In the past 20 years, "CRY believes there have been around 10,000 sudden deaths of young people, aged 35 and under. But with more access to screening and research into the causes of these devastating conditions, we will be able to prevent these tragedies.”

Take action now and prevent this from happening to you or a loved one. Here are some of the most common symptoms to look out for. Symptoms of heart disease include chest pain during or after exercise, breathlessness, palpitations, dizziness and fainting. If you suffer from any of these symptoms go to your GP. Sure it's probably a one off, but if any of these are common for you it's best to be safe.

If there's a history of young sudden deaths in your family or you've experience some of the symptoms above consider a screening (i.e. electrocardiogram, ECG). Subsided screening with CRY is only £35 for people between the ages of 14 and 35. Your life is worth the payment.

Feeling more aware and better prepared? Tweet us @sofeminineUK!

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