5 Basic Health Tips to Know Before Age 18

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Many people reach adulthood without a comprehensive health education. Unfortunately, the first time many learn about their health is when something goes wrong, leading them to seek professional help. 

However, you can stave off many emergency visits — and save a small fortune — by practicing preventative care. The right habits are better than an apple a day for nurturing your total well-being. 

What should you learn before departing for college or adult life? Here are five basic health tips to know before age 18. 

1. Why and How to Brush Your Teeth

Far too many college students are guilty of studying into the wee hours and tumbling into bed with dirty chompers. However, doing so creates more than unsightly stains on your incisors. It can also increase your risk of disease. 

For example, researchers have found an association between the bacteria that causes gingivitis and Alzheimer’s disease. Failing to brush, especially along the gumline, lets this germ enter your bloodstream, where it travels to your brain. It also swings by your heart for a visit, where it increases your risk of coronary heart disease by hardening your arteries. 

What are the top oral care tips you should know before age 18? Add the following to your routine:

  • Brush at least twice daily: You should brush once in the morning and again at night. You might also prefer brushing after heavy meals featuring creamy or chocolatey sauces or a hefty dose of garlic or onion. 
  • Make one brush the full deal: Ideally, your evening routine should include a total floss, brush and rinse with a fluoride mouthwash to kill maximum germs before you turn in for the night. 
  • Get along the gumline: Hold your brush at a 45-degree angle to your gums. 
  • Please floss: Roughly a third of people do, meaning the majority take unnecessary health risks. If you can’t stand sharp thread, opt for a tape version or, better yet, a water flosser. 

2. How to Prepare Healthy Meals 

If you live on pizza, ramen and the occasional store-bought convenience meal in college, you’re not meeting your nutritional needs. Worse, you could be harming your health. Why? 

Many pre-packaged meals contain unhealthy sodium levels. A single can of soup might have your full day’s RDA of sodium in one serving. Too much salt increases blood pressure and heart disease risk. 

Furthermore, many such foods are laden with white flour and unhealthy fats. White flour is problematic because it spikes blood sugar, leading to a precipitous drop. Then, you get hungry again, inspiring overeating and upping your Type 2 diabetes risk. Additionally, the alloxan produced during manufacturing destroys your pancreas, further increasing disease risk. 

Although the FDA banned trans fats because of the health risks, they still lurk in some foods. Look for “partially hydrogenated oil” on labels to identify these cardiovascular health nightmares. 

Now that you know what to avoid, what should you eat? It’s simple to prepare healthy meals if you stick to these guidelines:

  • Stick to whole foods: You get the most nutritional punch for your dollar in foods close to their natural forms. 
  • Use the clock trick: Look at your plate as a clock at each meal, filling a half hour with veggies and fruit, leaving 15 minutes each for lean protein and starch. 
  • Get your prep on: If you stop for fast food because of your busy schedule, two hours once a week can make a huge difference in your health. Use it to prep grab-and-go freezer favorites that nourish you during the week. 
  • Shop your farmers market: The price of groceries has increased everywhere, but you can still find bargains on the freshest organic produce at your local farmers market. 

3. How to Identify and Manage Your Emotions 

Part of total health includes caring for your psyche. Mental health often goes overlooked, especially in America, where less than half of adults get the care they need to treat their conditions. 

Maintaining your mental health means learning to identify your emotions before letting them drive your behavior. It’s equally vital to know how to manage them in a way that serves you, not add more problems to your plate. 

Children often learn unhealthy ways of coping with overwhelming emotions in dysfunctional family systems. For example, suppose you had a narcissistic parent who bullied people into getting their way. In that case, you may emulate their behavior under stress, even if doing so leads to undesirable consequences like job loss or social ostracism. Your first and foremost responsibility as an adult is to learn how to handle and express frustration and anger without hurting others. 

Furthermore, you might not be reacting to present events as much as past triggers. Pay attention when something makes you overreact — reflect on what you saw, felt or heard right before you started to lose control. A whiff of a cologne that reminds you of an abusive parent might make you react furiously to a present-day comment that you’d otherwise brush off with ease. 

Mindfulness is your friend, especially if you can’t afford a therapist. Spend time each day reflecting on your behavior. What did you handle as you wanted, and what could you improve? If you behaved badly, what occurred that led you to seek an ineffective coping strategy? 

Please be gentle with yourself — after all, you’re relearning what it is to be human. Don’t beat yourself up. However, do visualize yourself behaving differently in the future to instill a new pattern. When you feel yourself getting out of control, hit pause. Reflect and breathe deeply for a minute or even sleep on how to proceed before acting. 

4. The Components of Fitness and How Often to Exercise 

Many people never learn the importance of physical fitness in school. Although the World Health Organization recommends that those 5 through 17 get at least an hour of exercise each day, many districts have cut gym classes to focus more on standardized test preparation. As a result, entire generations reach adulthood, never understanding that moving your body is as vital as feeding it for maintaining health.

Fitness consists of three primary components:

  • Cardiovascular fitness: This aspect increases your heart and lung capacity. It entails movement like running, biking, walking and hiking. Anything that elevates your heart rate and leaves you panting qualifies. 
  • Resistance training: Many people achieve this facet by lifting weights. However, resistance bands and bodyweight exercises can also qualify — think squats, pushups and pull-ups. 
  • Flexibility: This component involves stretching. Experts recommend dynamic stretching as you warm up for an activity and static stretches to cool down. Taking a yoga class on a rest day is a glorious idea. 

Ideally, you should get roughly 30 to 60 minutes of movement each day to meet the minimum requirements. You should resistance train at least two or three times to see muscle gains and maintain strength. Stretch after every workout or whenever it feels good — it helps relax you and ease stress. 

5. When to Seek Medical Care 

To go to the doctor or not to go — that is the existential question facing countless sick Americans. Unfortunately, far too many people base their choice on their economic situation, not their physical needs. 

First, it’s best to have an annual physical and dental examination. These visits can introduce you to preventative care and catch minor problems before they become serious — and expensive — issues. If you’re one of the many Americans without coverage, look for clinics that offer sliding-scale fees. 

Furthermore, you should seek prompt attention if you experience any of the following: 

  • Choking or difficulty breathing 
  • Loss of consciousness or change in mental state
  • Heart attack symptoms: Chest pain, pressure or tightness in the chest, neck or jaw, shortness of breath and sudden lightheadedness or dizziness. 
  • Head or spinal injuries
  • Stroke symptoms: Sudden numbness, confusion, speech problems, trouble walking, vision changes, facial droop. 
  • Suicidal thoughts

Finally, you should seek treatment for any symptoms lasting longer than two weeks or if you have chronic health conditions that require routine monitoring to safeguard your health. 

Basic Health Tips to Know Before Adulthood

It’s okay to reach adulthood without knowing how to sew on a lost button. However, ignorance of basic preventative care knowledge can impact your overall health. 

Ensure you or your children understand these five basic health tips to know before age 18. You’ll be ready to face the grownup world armed with the information you need to maintain a positive well-being. 

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