You might not be “too young” for these serious issues.
Some of the most common health problems in the United States are associated with old age. However, while they’re statistically more common in those above age 60, many troubling health conditions are on the rise among Americans in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.
The trend in health problems starting at younger ages could be pinned on lifestyle habits. With many Americans living sedentary lifestyles and eating diets high in sodium and saturated fat, conditions that once only affected people in their 80s are now hitting people in their 30s.
Many conditions can strike at any age, but here are three troubling health problems that are on the rise in young adults:
In the past decade, there was a 44 percent jump in the number of young adults hospitalized because of a stroke, according to the National Stroke Association. Unfortunately, because many young adults believe they’re too young to have a stroke, they may not recognize stroke symptoms right away and often delay seeking treatment.
One explanation is that young adults are presenting the risk factors for a stroke in increasing numbers. Risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, unhealthy diet, and obesity. Learn more about strokes in young adults here.
2. Colorectal cancer
Overall, colorectal cancer rates are dropping, but they’re increasing among young adults, according to the American Cancer Society. Cancer can develop due to a complex cocktail of influences, but colorectal cancer is more tied to lifestyle factors than any other type of cancer.
Risk factors for colorectal cancer include unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, and obesity. (Find out the link between processed meat and colorectal cancer here.)
3. Type 2 diabetes
Diabetes used to be categorized as “juvenile diabetes” (now called type 1 diabetes) and “adult-onset diabetes” (now called type 2 diabetes). The reason for the change is that more people are developing type 1 diabetes in adulthood, and more children, teens, and young adults are developing type 2 diabetes. (Learn the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes here.)
Unfortunately, when type 2 diabetes starts young, it’s more likely to be aggressive and cause complications of diabetes.
The main theory behind the rise of type 2 diabetes in young adults and children is childhood obesity rates. About one in five school-aged Americans are affected by obesity—a rate that has tripled since the 1970s—according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (Here are tips from pediatricians to prevent childhood obesity.)
Furthermore, more youth and young adults are living sedentary lifestyles, and 63 percent of youth drink a sugar-sweetened beverage (e.g., soda) on a daily basis, according to the CDC. These lifestyle factors increase the risk of developing insulin resistance at a young age, leading to type 2 diabetes.
The big picture is that lifestyle habits can affect you earlier than you think, and you don’t have to wait for your first gray hair to prioritize your health.
Overwhelmed? Start with these tips:
5 health problems you’re actually not too young for. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Medicine. (Accessed on May 29, 2019 at https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/5-health-problems-youre-actually-not-too-young-for.)
Childhood obesity facts. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Accessed on May 29, 2019 at https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm.)
Get the facts: sugar-sweetened beverages and consumption. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Accessed on May 29, 2019 at https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/data-statistics/sugar-sweetened-beverages-intake.html.)
Stroke risk factors. Dallas, TX: American Stroke Association. (Accessed on May 29, 2019 at https://www.strokeassociation.org/en/about-stroke/stroke-risk-factors.)
Study finds sharp rise in colon cancer and rectal cancer rates among young adults. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society, 2017. (Accessed on May 29, 2019 at https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/study-finds-sharp-rise-in-colon-cancer-and-rectal-cancer-rates-among-young-adults.html.)
Kaufman FR. Type 2 diabetes in children and young adults: a “new epidemic.” Clinical Diabetes. 2002 Oct;20(4):217-8.
Type 2 diabetes in youth progresses faster, more aggressively than in adults even under optimal treatment conditions. Arlington, VA: American Diabetes Association, 2013. (Accessed on May 29, 2019 at http://www.diabetes.org/newsroom/press-releases/2013/TODAYstudy.html.)
Young stroke survivors. Dallas, TX: National Stroke Association. (Accessed on May 29, 2019 at https://www.stroke.org/understand-stroke/impact-of-stroke/young-stroke-survivors/.)