Health & Wellness

The 4 biggest health mistakes men make in their 20s

At the risk of gender bias, some men in their 20s —and probably older guys, too — have to admit they may put more effort into Fantasy Football picks than they do for their health.

While one's 20s are a ridiculously healthy time for most men (and women), there are a few things you could start doing now that may keep you in good shape for decades to come. The good news is, none of these things require much time or effort.

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"Think of yourself as a Ferrari. You’re not going to put cheap gas in a car like that, and the same thing goes for your body.”

Stay healthy by avoiding these mistakes.

1. You Think You Don’t Need To See A Doctor

A survey by the American Academy of Family Physicians shows that 55 percent of men in the U.S. haven't seen a doc in the past year. That could spell disaster in terms of good health.

“One issue is that men —especially young men — don’t come in until problems that could have been easily treated become more major,” says family medicine physician Dr. Rick Henriksen of University of Utah Health Care.

Although there are generally few health problems during this decade, feeling good doesn’t necessarily mean you are well since many problems like high blood pressure and pre-diabetes, for example, have few symptoms, says internist Dr. Steven Lamm, director of the Tisch Center for Men’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center. Getting men to make health a priority takes a little effort.

“One of the things I ask a male patient is on a scale of one to 10, how do you prioritize your health,” says Lamm, adding that getting a younger guy to “about a 7 or 8” would go far in helping to prevent future problems.

At a minimum, take these steps:

  • Get a blood pressure check and a full blood work-up, which includes a cholesterol profile. You may not need an annual physical; however —and it’s a big however — seeing your doctor yearly or every other year, for example, is highly individualized.
  • Make sure you are up-to-date on immunizations.
  • If you are at risk for certain diseases, such as diabetes or heart problems, you doc may want to you to come in for an exam or blood work on a more regular basis.

RELATED: Do I really need an annual physical? More doctors say maybe not

2. You Eat Bacon Like It's a Food Group

Bacon and Hot Pockets — two favorites of many 20-something males — may be fine in moderation, but, dude, you really do need to eat some fruits and vegetables, says Henriksen.

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Chances are good that if you live alone (and this applies to women, too), your diet may suffer.

According to research published in the journal Nutrition Reviews, singles are more likely to indulge in ready-made meals at the expense of fruits and vegetables. The key to get young men to eat more healthy fare may be to link nutrition with something to which then can relate.

“I like to create analogies that men can understand like ‘Think of yourself as a Ferrari,’” says NYU’s Lamm. “You’re not going to put cheap gas in a car like that, and the same thing goes for your body.”

Men, he says, also tend to confuse nutrients with calories.

“They think if they only eat cheeseburgers and their weight is good that they are in good shape,” he adds.

Although bad dietary choices in the 20s generally don’t tend to cause health issues until later in life (like your 30s), there’s nothing like starting now to try and add some nutrient-rich food into the diet.

Throw a banana in cereal and add lettuce, tomatoes, onions and beans to your tacos, suggests The American Cancer Society, adding that fruits and vegetables can help lower your risk of developing cancer.

If that’s not enough reason to add some nutrient-rich food, think about this:

A rotten diet can potentially lower male sperm counts.

3. You Think, 'An STD Couldn’t Happen to Me'

If you’re in your 20s, sexually active, and not in a monogamous relationship —where both partners have been tested —you are putting yourself at risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Compared with older adults, sexually active individuals ages 20–24 years (and those ages 15-19) are at higher risk of acquiring STDs, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Here are some sobering stats:

  • STD rates rose between 2011 and 2012, with syphilis rates rising by 15 percent for men who have sex with men and 4 percent for men who have sex with women.
  • In 2013, men ages 20–24 years had the highest rate of gonorrhea (459.4 cases per 100,000 males) compared with other males, according to the CDC.

In their 20s, “men are very sexually active, have multiple partners, and they think they are indestructible,” says urologist Dr. Alexis Te, director of the urology program at the Iris Cantor Men's Health Center, New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

The only sure way to prevent an STD is through abstinence. If that’s not an option, wear a condom, every single time you have sex, whether vaginal, anal or oral.

Although many people believe oral sex is “safe” sex, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, can be spread through oral sex, according to the American Sexual Health Association. However, the chances of spreading or getting an STD during oral sex can be lowered by using a condom or dental dam. "

If a man has any suspicion that he may have a sexually transmitted disease, he needs to get tested and treated,” says Te.

And even if he is not experiencing any symptoms, but is sexually active with multiple partners, he should get screened for STDs, he adds.

4. You Don't Get Enough Sleep

You need sleep, period. Even if you’re busy climbing the corporate ladder during the day — maybe even the night when you take work home with you.

RELATED: Paleo sleep habits: What we can learn from hunter-gatherers

Restorative sleep is critical for a man’s thinking, mood and overall productivity, says Utah’s Henriksen.

And although he “hates to hit below the belt,” lack of sleep can also lower testosterone and libido, says Lamm. “These young guys can’t go to bed at 2 a.m. and wake up at 5 a.m. and expect to be productive — in any area of their lives,” he says, adding that stimulants like energy drinks and too much coffee can wreck a young man’s sleep-wake cycle.

Although everyone is an individual, younger adults (ages 18-25) should try to get 7-9 hours of sleep while adults ages 26-64 should do the same, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

“If a young guy tries to get a good night’s rest most nights of the week, he really is going to make a difference in his good health over the long term,” says Henriksen.

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