Your 20s are the age when good health seems almost automatic and you encounter few health problems, but here’s the catch: If you do have a disease during this decade it may have been preventable. It’s not surprising that protecting your sexual health should be at the top of your list when you realize that the American Sexual Health Association says one in two sexually active people will contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI) by the age of 25.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 41.3 percent of adults between the ages of 20 and 29 have herpes simplex virus 1. Physicians say practicing safe sex and getting regular pap smears are vital for good health during the sexually active years. The CDC recommends that women who are younger than 25 should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year.

Women should start receiving regular pap smears when they reach the age of 21 to screen for HPV, or human papillomavirus. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that can be a predisposing factor leading to cervical cancer.

Start exercising and eating right.

A lack of exercise or a poor diet put women in their 20s at a higher chance of developing diabetes or other similar, chronic conditions, according to the University of Utah Health Hospitals and Clinics. Now is the decade to start exercising and eating for your later years.

Daily doses of exercise thwart several aging factors—stress, obesity, heart disease, diabetes. The longer you’re physically active, the less you may notice getting older. Many 20-somethings make the mistake of devoting their workout simply to endless cardio and crunches. While lots of cardio is great, especially if you mix it up, it’s important to also do weight training. Weight training builds muscle definition. Weight training also builds bone density, which is crucial for preventing osteoporosis and helps you remain active later in life.

Sun damage now heightens later risk.

Twenty-something’s young adults also are often at risk for melanoma, the most dangerous skin cancer which can occur at any stage of adult life. High exposure to UV rays can cause damage to the DNA in our skin cells. The sun damage we suffer in our twenties when we spend hours on the beach in search of a golden tan heightens the risk of melanoma as we age. Young women and men should use sunscreen whenever they’re outdoors.

Apply sunscreen all year round and not just during vacation. Don’t let the holidays fool you by staying out for hours in the sun when your body is telling you to seek shade.

Get proactive about mental health.

Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health conditions among young adults, and suicide was the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 10 and 34 in 2017, according to the CDC.

It’s important to be aware of – and protect – your mental wellbeing from your 20s on. If you feel anxiety or stress affecting you, get help. See your family doctor or general practitioner if you don’t know where to turn. Getting the right help and support now will help you manage your mental health for the decades to come.

The risk for chronic diseases and other health problems increases with the years. Be proactive now in safeguarding your health. Take advantage of your wellbeing to learn how to recognize and prevent the health concerns that face us all as we age.

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