A woman’s 20s are a time when she should take charge of her own health, says Nitasha Burney, M.D., a primary care physician at Piedmont Physicians Group.
Most young women are in general good health, but it is important to establish a relationship with a primary care physician, form good fitness and diet habits, and get tested regularly for sexually-transmitted diseases, says Dr. Burney.
“Here in America, we have a big problem with obesity,” says Dr. Burney. “Learn how to cook for yourself if you haven’t already done so; and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean meat and multi-grains.”
The tests young women need to have
At your yearly wellness exam, discuss the following tests with your physician:
- Blood pressure: The goal should be less than 120/80.
- Cholesterol: Make sure you fast before your checkup so your doctor can get an accurate reading of your HDL, LDL and total cholesterol.
- Diabetes screening: This includes a baseline glucose test as well as a kidney and liver function test.
- Pap smear: Women should get a Pap smear by age 21 if they are sexually active. For women with normal Pap test results, a test every three years is recommended.
- Annual STD testing.
STD testing and pregnancy prevention
Women in their 20s who are sexually active should be tested regularly for sexually transmitted infections and discuss pregnancy prevention with their physician.
“We’ve coined the phrase in our office, ‘Exchange your paperwork,’” says Dr. Burney. “Get a copy of your [STD test results] paperwork and request the same from your partner. Then you can start a healthy conversation about sexually transmitted diseases and remaining STD-free.”
“STD testing is especially important if a woman changes partners, which women tend to do in their twenties if they are not married,” she says. “Use a condom every single time.”
If you’ve had an abnormal Pap smear, talk to your doctor about how often you should have a Pap test – you may need one yearly, rather than every three years.
Build healthy habits
“For my patients in their 20s, I really stress the need to eat a healthy diet and exercise because this shapes your habits for the rest of your life,” she says.
When you see the positive results from leading an active, healthy lifestyle, it can encourage you to carry those healthy habits into your 30s, 40s and beyond.
To find a physician near you, visit Piedmont.org.