“The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” -Lin Yutang While our bodies are finely tuned, energy efficient, high power, recycling machines, waste is still created. Some waste is simply produced when there is an excess of a nutrient or molecule that our body does not, or cannot, use or store. Some is produced by our cells as they make more energy, or as by-products of regular cell functioning. With each process, our body must do something with the waste – either recycle it or get rid of it, as holding on to these wastes products can be
Our 20s are often a time for self-exploration, growth, career and social development. Often considered our physiologic peak, our 20s are often overlooked as a time to actively engage in self-care and develop healthy practices, not only to help us thrive during this time but also in the future. In fact, major predictors of health in your 60s and 70s are initiated decades earlier. These decades-long observational studies can help guide young adults by establishing the clear correlations between health behaviours and future outcomes. Some of these common correlations include low calcium intake and risk of osteoporosis, toxin exposure and cancer risk, traumatic brain injury and dementia, and many more. Meaning our decisions during this precious period can have the most profound impact on our physical and mental future. Unfortunately, some data suggests that young adults are less likely to engage in health promoting behaviours.
A commonly explored construct in health psychology is the health belief model (HBM) which is designed to explain the likelihood of an individual performing health practices.
With the main pillars being perceptions of susceptibility, severity, benefits, barriers, self-efficacy (how strongly an individual believes they will be able to successfully complete the task) and cues to action. Meaning that before we engage in health promoting behaviours, we need a clear understanding of how vulnerable we are to negative impacts, how helpful these behaviors are, and what may stop us. If our concern for risk, our susceptibility, self-efficacy and cues for action outweigh the barriers, then we will likely engage in the health behaviour. For example, wearing sunblock (health behaviour) was not common until the link between skin cancer (severity) and excessive sun exposure (susceptibility) was defined. Many individuals still avoid sun protection based on beliefs that they may not need it, commonly seen in high melanin populations due to lower susceptibility, or simply due to the hassle of applying sunscreen, dislike of common ingredients, etc.
So, what are some steps you can take right away based on the HBM model to optimize your health in your 20s and beyond?
Understand Your Genetic Frameworks
Risk for illness can be calculated in several ways and one of the most important is family health history (FHH). Family history can help us understand the presence of inherited traits. A study from 2019 found that 93% of participants were aware of their FHH and recognised the importance of this information when doctors asked for it. With advances in personalised genetic testing we are able to understand how family history can impact the individual. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (or SNPs) are differences in a single letter (or nucleotide) of your DNA sequence. The type of SNPs in your genes is completely unique and determines the framework in which your body and mind can operate. That’s why some people can tolerate gluten while others may be sensitive. While genetic propensities tell us the framework, our environment tells us if those genes get expressed or not and it becomes a complex web of interaction and influence. Where genetic analysis can be a helpful tool is in identifying the risk or susceptibility based on multiple determinants of health.
Check out: MyBlueprint™
Be Mindful of Cognitive Health and TBI
Our cognitive and perceptual abilities peak in our 20s and begin to decline with age. After 40 years old the rate of brain shrinkage naturally increases however we can slow or accelerate this rate of loss. In fact, Alzheimer’s researchers have discussed that at the onset of symptoms we may already be too late in the disease progression.
We accelerate loss with trauma or injury (think of the impact of blows to the head in contact sports or from accidents), processed diets, a sedentary lifestyle, nutrient deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, elevated homocysteine levels, and metabolic dysfunction including impaired glucose tolerance. Further lifestyle factors that impair acute cognitive processing include stress, dehydration, hypoglycemia and low-fat diets. Omega 3 fatty acids were also shown to improve cognitive function in young adults.
We know that to prevent hip fractures in seniors we should be increasing bone density by doing resistance exercises and getting sufficient nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, strontium, boron and more. This must be done consistently IN OUR 20s! Furthermore, sedentary activity is one of the greatest predictors of bone degeneration in post-menopausal women.
A great option is Bone Basics
Speaking of risks with sedentary lifestyles, cardiovascular risk increases exponentially with lack of movement in your 20s. With more and more virtual experiences- working and studying from home, virtual entertainment, restrictions on group activities, etc. We may face more barriers than ever to getting out and moving.
Check out NOx Boost
Many young adults have been exposed to hormone disruptors such as those found in plastics, in foods, fragrances, makeup and hygiene products. Further the use of hormonal birth control has also gone up. While our bodies are well adapted to processing and managing some hormones, they can become imbalanced if exposure is excessive or we have blocked excretion. This can influence sexual function, libido, mood, energy, sleep, weight distribution and mineral absorption. For example, magnesium and B vitamins are often depleted with long term hormone supplementation.
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