With more and more millennials skipping out on annual health exams in favor of a quick, as needed, visit to an urgent care facility, doctors fear the largest generation in America, may overlook serious health issues. There are 83 million Americans between age 22 and 37 and according to a November 2018 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 45% of those 18-29 and 28% of those age 30-39 do not have a primary care physician. The issue is that health conditions that can be caught early may slip through the cracks. Dr. Niket Sonpal, Adjunct Assistant Professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City, offers 5 health exams millennials should get this year.
Dr. Sonpal, who at age 36 is a millennial himself, has compassion and understanding when it comes to millennials. “You’re looking at a generation with incredible debt and many don’t have jobs with health insurance,” he says.
In addition to the financial aspect, Dr. Sonpal adds that this is a generation raised on the internet. “When we got sick as kids, our mom searched for answers online. If we went to the doctor, it was a day of missed school and boring waiting rooms. Now as adults, millennials want, fast affordable solutions and often take a DIY approach to health.”
He goes on to say that healthcare has become an expensive hassle millennials choose to avoid. They would much rather facetime or text a doctor as opposed to missing work hours. They prefer to just walk into an urgent care clinic, pay $40 and be done with it, fast. “The problem though is that while this approach may be ok for treating a sore throat or flu, millennials might be missing an opportunity to nip a bigger problem early on.”
I want to urge all millennial women to get women’s wellness exams which are a PAP Smear and breast exam as well as a screening for STD’s and bloodwork. HPV can lead to cervical cancer so it’s important to monitor dysplasia.
Dr. Sonpal encourages millennials to get these exams out of the at either the start of the year or their birthday month so they can easily remember when they last went to the doctor for these exams.
1. Blood Pressure Screenings
You want to get blood pressure checked out at least once every 2 years and every year if the top number is 120 to 139 and bottom between 80 to 89. High blood pressure is linked to diabetes which is really hitting millennials hard. According to the CDC, between 2001 and 2015 teen obesity rates rose 30%. “As kids, millennials were part of a supersize culture. Millennials also didn’t spend a lot of time going outside to play until the streetlights came on as Gen X’ers did. This all adds up to diabetes and heart disease if not monitored,” he says.
2. Eye Exams
Millennials were raised on technology and their eyes are reaping the cost of this. It’s estimated that millennials spend over 12 hours per day consuming media with a majority of it on mobile devices on screens held closer to the eye. This leads to “nearsightedness” or “shortsightedness” where the eye weakens and can’t see clearly at a distance. A lot of millennials will find themselves squinting to see things that are further away, they may have dull headaches and find themselves rubbing their eyes frequently. “A lot of millennials are popping ibuprofen for headaches associated with eye strain and neck ache from prolonged computer jobs. This then leads to stomach issues,” cautions Dr. Sonpal.
3. IBS and Digestive Screenings
We also need to consider that the food we eat today is full of antibiotics and hormones. Millennials are a generation whose diet was primarily full of processed foods. We see a lot of Celiac Disease (intolerance of gluten). A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that from the mid-80s to 2013, the incidence of colon cancer has been rising fastest for people between the ages of 20 and 29, by 2.4 percent per year. “The issue here is that we have millennials self-treating stomach issues that can be the start of something serious. If you’re experiencing chronic stomach pain, see a doctor. Gut health is incredibly important for overall wellbeing,” advises Dr. Sonpal.
4. Mental Health Screening
Millennials are one stressed out generation. According to Psychology Today, suicide rates among young adults have tripled since the ’50s with millennials are reporting a sense of “faking it until they make it.” The problem is they feel disconnected from themselves and wrong for the life they are living. They feel as if they are not enough and then they scroll on their Instagram feeds and see people their age with luxury watches, travel to the Maldives and Dubai and they feel hopeless, stressed and depressed. They’re popping Xanax and smoking marijuana to take the edge off. The good news is that millennials are willing to discuss their feelings and studies show that this is the first generation who doesn’t see any stigma about seeing a therapist or mentor coach. Sometimes a breakup or a layoff can trigger a downward spiral into depression or even drug or alcohol addiction.
5. Annual Exam and Immunizations
It’s recommended that you get the flu shot every year. Another important vaccine is for HPV which was mentioned earlier. Dr. Sonpal points out that the HPV vaccine has expanded coverage and is important to prevent certain types of cancer. Other vaccines may also be recommended depending on your health history. The only way you know is by having a yearly physical.
About Dr. Niket Sonpal:
Dr. Niket Sonpal is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine and Clinical instructor at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, Brooklyn who specializes in Gastroenterology.