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Simple Health Steps for Women in Their 20s & 30s

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1. Start a heart-healthy diet-and-exercise plan.

Skip the fried and fatty foods, and strive for at least half an hour of exercise daily. Eating right and keeping active are the gifts that keep on giving. If you establish these habits now, the benefits will last a lifetime. And if you plan on having children someday, it's a good idea to take a multivitamin that gives you plenty of folic acid now. Research shows that taking 400 micrograms of folic acid daily for a year before becoming pregnant reduces the risk of premature delivery.

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2. Work on your relationship -- with your doctor, that is.

"People really delay getting a primary care doctor once they're past having a pediatrician," says JoAnn Manson, chief of the division of preventive medicine at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital. So, locate a healthcare provider you trust. Develop a list of questions: What contraceptive method is right for you? What is the best way to prevent STDs?

3. Know your family health history.

Did your sister, mother or grandmother die of breast cancer or heart disease at 50? Does early-onset diabetes run in the family? These are important questions to ask your parents and grandparents while you still can. "Construct a family medical history tree," Manson says.

4. Don't forget key screening tests.

Make sure you get your annual Pap smears and regular breast exams by a health professional. Monthly breast self-exams are considered "optional." Check out the Susan G. Komen Foundation's interactive tool at http://www.komen.org/bse/ for the instructional techniques. Some doctors also recommend thyroid screenings for pregnant women or women thinking about becoming pregnant.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Mikio A. Nihira, MD on August 20, 2012
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