How To Get Serious About Your Health

get serious about your healthWhen you turn 30, the warranty on your body runs  out.

Instead of eating Cheetos for breakfast and falling asleep without brushing our teeth, we need to eat Actual Vegetables.

And occasionally move our bodies.

And understand our health insurance plans.
Whaaaaat?! So boring and un-fun!

That may be true, but it’s also true that getting dentures and osteoporosis at 45 is boring and un-fun.

If you’d like to get serious about your health, here are eight little steps that will help you get started

1. Get your teeth checked

Don’t have dental insurance?  Check out this list of dental schools that offer free or very affordable services.  If you don’t want student hands in your mouth, you can frequently find Groupons for teeth cleanings and dental x-rays.  I got a $300 cleaning and x-ray for $60!  I know teeth-cleaning isn’t a particularly sexy or fun way to spend money, but you know what’s really awful?  Root canals.  That you have to get when you go years between checkups.

2. Get a basic physical

If you’re like me, there are probably a few things that have bugging you. What’s the deal with that mole? Why does my hip click when I hike? And why can’t I sleep through the night? Because you drink coffee at 7 pm, Sarah. This is what your insurance is for: staying healthy and catching problems before they get too big.

3. Get a pelvic exam and pap smear

But you already knew that, right? And while you’re at it, get tested for STDs and get the HPV vaccine if you qualify.

4. If you wear glasses or contacts, get your eyes checked

I only do this once every two or three years, but I love that moment I pop in new contacts and allofasudden I can see the leaves at the top of every tree! If this isn’t covered by your insurance, you can get cheap exams at America’s Best, cheap contacts from 1800contacts, and frames + lenses for $100 from both Warby Parker and Eyefly. (I speak from experience!)

5. Give yourself regular breast exams.

Again, you already knew that, right?

6. Reassess your fitness routine

You don’t need six-packs abs or Michelle Obama-caliber arms to be healthy. But you really should do something active, several times week. And lifting weights? It prevents osteoporosis and just generally makes you feel like a badass. Commit to finding something – anything! – that’s active and heart rate increasing that you genuinely enjoy doing. It doesn’t even have to be “exercise”! It could be 20-minute dance parties in your living room, playing hockey with your friends, shoveling all the sidewalks on your block, or leg wrestling with your roommates every night.

7. If you have serious mental health issues, look into them

If you regularly feel depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed – know that you don’t have to feel like that and you’re not alone. If you’re comfortable with medication, talk to your physician. See if your health insurance covers therapy. If it doesn’t or if you can’t afford it, look into support groups (either in real life or online) and check out sliding-fee therapists.

8. If you don’t have health insurance – please, please, please get some

Medical debt is one of the leading causes of debt. While health insurance won’t completely protect you from incurring medical debt, having insurance makes it much, much less likely. Also, you’re now legally required to have it. And it’s probably less expensive than you think! I use Health Partners and pay about $100 a month. If you absolutely can’t afford health insurance, this blog post is incredibly useful.

Tell me in the comments!  What do you do to stay on top of your health and personal care?

P.S. 9 ways to love moving your body

15 Comments

Shireen

Great advice! So many 20-somethings continue to ignore health problems probably because we think we are invincible, or, it makes us feel very old. I am following all of your suggestions above, with or without insurance, and I commend you for writing about both situations!

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Vanessa

If your doctor isn't listening to you GET A SECOND OPINION. You won't be blacklisted! I ignored my cancer symptoms for 4 months because my original doctor kept telling me it was asthma. I was fed up so I got a second opinion. If I had ignored them longer, I would have dropped dead (not exaggerating) from the grapefruit tumor pressing on my heart and lungs.

So if you're feeling fed up, get a new doctor and get bossy with him or her. Tell Doogie Howser that s/he can't leave until you're finished listing your symptoms or until you understand what's going on. I often tell my docs to stop talking for a moment and let me repeat back what they just said.

Oh and TAKE NOTES! Write down what they say. I caught my neurologist contradicting herself. I pointed out that's not what she just said (nicely!) and she laughed and thanked me.

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Meg

For the dentist too! I have a dark spot on one of my teeth that the dentist said was just a shadow from where my gums had receded a little. I didn't really believe him, but I wanted to so badly that I let myself think it couldn't be terrible or he'd know. New dentist a year later… it was an old filling done improperly so there was still a cavity under it. Had to get the whole thing drilled out and it was much bigger than when I first asked about it.

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Laura

For low-income folks living in Minnesota, MNCare is a really great option and truth be told, better than any employer insurance I have ever had. A tip- when applying, stay on top of filling out the paperwork and sending it back in or you have to start over again. Trust me, I felt like it took forever for me to get it but once I did it was great!

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magtravels

Health Partners looks great, but it seems to be only for Minnesota and around. Anyone has any suggestions for other states, specifically Texas? Cheers!

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Annie

Let's not forget a couple of basics, too: 1. don't smoke (or if you do, work really hard to quit!) and 2. fuel your body with real, whole food! Even if you're living on a tight budget, there are a ton of great resources out there for eating well on the cheap – it's all a matter of making it a priority.

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Pieliekamais

Correction! Teeth cleaning (money spent on) IS very sexy! 🙂 When you have no build-up around teeth, your teeth are much whiter (and lipsticks and glosses look so much better), and things like red wine and blueberries won't stain your teeth.

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Stephanie Loudmouth

Well, I just wrote a nice long comment and it disappeared, so I'll try to remember. Ugh, internet.

First off, it always makes me mad when I find out that a friend her 20s has NEVER seen a gyno. Um, what!? I think you should start going as soon as you're 18 or sexually active, whichever comes first. Better safe than sorry.

Secondly, therapy is really affordable especially at sliding-scale places, and it's worth the money for your mental health. I was going to one of those types of clinics for awhile and only paying $25 per weekly session. I think anyone can use therapy even if they don't feel like they have a "big" problem. It's always nice to talk to someone about life who has an objective view.

Last, my healthcare is free, but therefore it's pretty crappy. I'd be willing to pay, but I don't qualify (just started my own business and don't make enough yet). If anyone knows a way around this in California, please let me know!

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Sarah

Just a friendly correction!

Having two optometrists as parents and having worked at their practice, I have learned that getting regular eye exams (once every 1-2 years ideally) is important *regardless* of whether you wear glasses or not. Yes, having an up-to-date prescription is important for your vision, but optometrists can also test your eye health and discover issues (like glaucoma, which is the leading cause of blindness) before symptoms are present.

So, if you are able to carve out some extra money for an eye health exam, I would highly recommend it! 🙂

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