By Dan Matthews
Being a teenager can be challenging. You’re able to make a lot of decisions for yourself compared to your younger self, but you might not be 100% ready to be out on your own. When it comes to your health and wellness, there are many things that you can start thinking about, and even working on with your parents, to gain independence and confidence. In the long run, your well-being will depend on preventive healthcare.
Understanding Preventive Healthcare
Do you remember when you were little and went to the doctor about once a year to get shots and have a check-up? You probably still do this today. As you get older, these types of visits are essential. You might hear them called preventive health services because when you keep up on your check-ups and health-related choices, it should help keep you well and free of preventable illnesses and conditions.
One critical factor to understand about preventive healthcare is that many insurance companies allow you to see your doctor for these visits free-of-charge. However, if you don’t have this benefit as part of your health plan, you can look for affordable or free clinics near you that offer preventive healthcare services.
Here are a few standard preventive healthcare objectives:
Schedule Your Annual Screenings
You need to see your primary care provider at least once a year, even if you’re healthy. During this visit, your care team will do several exams that make sure you’re well and developing normally. Sometimes, these tests can find some conditions early, making them a bit easier to treat. Common screenings you’ll need during your teen years and beyond include height and weight, blood pressure, vision, high cholesterol, and hearing.
Stay Up-To-Date on Vaccines
Getting your shots on a regular schedule will protect you from serious diseases like measles, whooping cough, and Hepatitis A and B. Some vaccines only take one injection, while others require that you get a series of shots to get full protection against bacteria or viruses. If you miss your vaccinations, you put yourself and others around you at an increased risk of severe and even life-threatening diseases.
Take Care of Mental Health Needs
Staying mentally well is critical to the health of all children and teens. It’s estimated that one out of every five adolescents in the United States has a mental disorder. Struggling with mental health conditions like depression or anxiety increases your risk of problems with drugs, alcohol, and school as you get older. To stay well, be sure to seek help from a counselor if you’re struggling with emotions or feelings that you don’t quite understand. Other ways to boost your mental health is to get plenty of exercise each day and eight hours of sleep at night.
Choose Healthy Habits
It might surprise you just how easy it can be to create a healthy lifestyle. While going to the doctor for a yearly checkup is important, you don’t have to see one right now to get yourself started on the right track for lifelong wellness. Here are a few healthy habits you can try:
- Take a walk every day to increase your activity. Living an active lifestyle can help control your weight and lowers your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
- Strengthen your brain by doing word puzzles or other games that improve your reasoning skills and memory. There are several apps you can download that make this a cinch.
- Get plenty of sleep to keep your body and your mind rested so they can heal and be ready to take on the next day. If you have trouble getting to sleep at night, practicing good sleep hygiene and getting into a night routine can help.
- Try writing down your feelings to control stress. Writing is an excellent outlet for your thoughts and emotions.
Make Good Decisions About Sex
No matter what your feelings are about engaging in sex, it’s essential that you get regular check-ups and find a physician you can speak to openly. You might think that things like sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy won’t happen to you. However, it’s crucial that you make decisions about your sexual health now because it will affect your overall wellness throughout your lifetime.
Pick the Right Foods
Choosing a candy bar when you’ve completed your studies for the day may seem like a good idea. However, if you’re ready to start making better decisions about your body, choosing foods rich in vitamins and other nutrients is critical.
Be sure you eat several small meals each day and that you’re getting the right amount of calories. Boys need about 2,800 calories per day during the teen years, and girls need about 2,200 each day. Make sure your diet is high in lean proteins like chicken and turkey and low in fats and sugar. You should also pick complex-carbohydrates like whole wheat breads and pastas over simple carbohydrates like those found in candy and soft drinks.
Every decision you make about your health over the next few years will impact your mental, physical, and even your emotional health in the future. Practice preventive healthcare by choosing healthy habits, scheduling annual screenings, and staying up-to-date on your vaccines so that you can grow into a healthy, active adult.