Women's Health: Things to know in your 20s

Doctors: Take action now to prevent problems later

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Doctors say young women in their 20s who are busy juggling work, school and family often overlook their health.

Taking preventative health measures now could make things easier for a woman in her later years, medical experts say.

Tiara Thomas, 23, is taking strides to take care of her body by eating fresh foods and exercising.

"Fast food is a lot more convenient, so I don't do this as much as I should, but I try," she said.

Thomas, a recent college graduate, takes pride in eating well and staying active, but admits she could do better about visiting the doctor since she has outgrown her pediatrician.

"I feel like I'm healthy. I take care of myself. It's probably something I put on the back burner a bit more than I put other things. I know it's important and I probably should do it sooner than later before something happens," Thomas said. "As far as annual exams at my age, I'm really clueless to that."

Dr. Jessica Swenberg with Indiana University Health said women in their 20s should have the vaccine to prevent tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough, in addition to other exams; including annual flu shots and the HPV virus vaccine through age 26 to protect against cervical cancer.

"In their 20s, women should start things like getting Pap smears. We start giving Paps at 21. There are different vaccines they might be eligible for," Swenberg said.

"In school, as a young lady, they teach you self-breast exams to prevent breast cancer," Thomas said.

Dr. Patricia Kennedy with IU Health North said young women should get into the habit early.

"Because they have their whole life ahead of them, they should get to know what their normal breast exam is and pay attention if there are changes," Kennedy said.

Thomas said she is going to continue making her health a priority.

"As a possible new year resolution, I'm going to find a physician, get my annual exam and make sure I'm making those healthy choices. It's important," Thomas said.

Doctors also advised women in their 20s to pay special attention to weight, as weight loss may become challenging in later years.

Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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