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 and neural tube defects.
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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 health care provider you trust. Develop a list of questions: What contraceptive method is right for you? What is the best way to prevent STDs? What vaccines do I need?
3. Know your family health history.
Did your sister, mother or grandmother die of breast cancer or heart disease at or prior to 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 a Pap test to check for cervical cancer every 3 years if you are 21 or older. If you are 30 or older, you can get both a Pap test and HPV test every 5 years. If you are sexually active and have a higher risk for STDs, get tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis yearly. Take an HIV test at least once, more frequently if you’re at risk.
Check your blood pressure every 2 years if it’s normal (lower than 120/80). If your blood pressure is high, you’ll need more frequent blood pressure checks and diabetes screening tests. Also get your cholesterol tested, and ask your doctor how often that needs to be done.