5 Health Risks Young People Face Today

Young people are now facing several major health risks, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol. Lifestyle changes are the key to reducing these risks.

Young professional working hard at a corporate office

In many ways, it’s wonderful to be young. With youth comes the energy and vigour to pursue dreams and strive for the best. Ambitious young people tend to work hard — and sometimes overwork — to achieve their goals.

Unfortunately, this puts the body in a state of high tension and exhaustion. It could also lead to unhealthy lifestyle habits, mental stress, poor diet, and a sedentary activity level, bringing about various diseases. Here are five common health problems that afflict young people in today’s fast-paced lifestyles.

1. Cervical and Lumbar Problems

Due to prolonged sitting at work, young people have a high risk of developing cervical, lumbar and spinal problems. Clinical studies confirm that 80% of chronic diseases are related to spinal dislocation and spinal nerve compression. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) lists cervical spine issues as one of the top ten diseases that affect our health. 

The nature of office work often requires an employee to be deskbound for many hours, resulting in tired muscles or backaches. Sitting in uncomfortable positions increases the pressure in the intervertebral disc.

It also keeps the muscles in a state of uncoordinated stress for a long time. Muscle ligaments will be stretched and strained, causing cervical and lumbar hyperplasia. In severe cases, overstretched nerve roots and arteries will lead to continuous discomfort and pain.

For young adults who have very sedentary jobs, proper posture is important. Here are some tips you can try to maintain your posture:

  • Do not stay seated for a long time.
  • Take frequent breaks to get up and stretch your body. Gently rotate your head and neck back and forth, then to the left and right, to release tension in your muscles.
  • Schedule a regular fitness session. Running, swimming, and other aerobic exercises can strengthen the lumbar region. Yoga and Pilates can also help improve your posture.

2. Cardiovascular Diseases

It’s shocking that sudden death among younger people has been on the rise in recent years. Most of these deaths are related to cardiovascular diseases, an illness that we assume would only happen to older people.

A report by Malaysia Statistics Bureau says otherwise, showing that patients with diabetes over the age of 18 has increased by at least 6%, while the cases of those with cholesterol issues have doubled.

There are four main types of cardiovascular diseases, including coronary heart disease (angina or chest pain, heart attacks and heart failure), stroke, peripheral arterial disease, and aortic disease.

Research shows that establishing and maintaining healthy habits, including eating well, being physically active, and abstaining from smoking, are the mainstays of cardiovascular disease prevention. The research also notes that maintaining good cardiovascular health should begin early. Thus, young adults should start taking better care of their heart health right away instead of waiting until they are older.

A combination of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbs like Mongolian milk vetch (huang qi, 黄芪), cattail pollen (pu huang, 蒲黄), plantago seed (ze xie, 泽泻), and wormwood capillary (yin chen, 茵陳), can also help with reducing systolic blood pressure and in turn, assist in preventing cardiovascular disease.

3. High Blood Pressure

Young people working out on the treadmill at a gym
Regular exercise reduces high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

It’s a misconception that young adults are rarely diagnosed with high blood pressure or hypertension. The National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) conducted in 2019 by Health Ministry Malaysia found that 3 in 10 or 6.4 million people in Malaysia suffer from hypertension. Among those below 30 years of age, men are three times more likely to have hypertension.

Various reasons cause hypertension. These include genetic predisposition, inappropriate dietary habits, lack of physical activity, alcohol drinking, and environmental factors such as psychological stress.

From a TCM qi (vital life energy), blood, yin (passive energy) and yang (active energy), which then result in diseases. TCM treatment supports hypertension medication, which involves oral herbal prescription, acupuncture, cupping, or tuina massage to reduce elevated BP or alleviate the patient’s discomfort due to this disease.

Firstly, cut down on salt, maintain a healthy weight, exercise, reduce alcohol consumption, and get enough sleep. Stress is also a significant contributor, so it helps to take time out to relax. For example, take up yoga or meditation to calm the mind and foster a better sense of well-being.

4. High Cholesterol

No matter how old we are, diets high in cholesterol, trans fats, and saturated fats lead to high cholesterol levels. The excessive cholesterol in our bloodstream turns into cholesterol deposits on our artery walls, causing heart diseases.

According to research, the younger someone is when they develop high cholesterol, the greater the risk of high cholesterol later in life. Thus, it’s best to keep our cholesterol at optimal levels early in life.

In addition, young adults who are careless with what they eat may be at higher risk of high cholesterol. Therefore, you can start practising healthy eating habits by consuming five portions of fruits and vegetables daily.

Additionally, you can also consume TCM herbs to complement your daily diet. There are various herbs or food that exhibit cholesterol-lowering properties – for example:  

  • hawthorn (shan zha, 山楂)
  • red sage (dan shen, 丹參)
  • oriental water-plantain (ze xie, 泽泻)
  • tuber fleece flower (he shou wu, 何首乌)
  • cassia seeds (jue ming zi, 决明子)
  • kudzu root (ge gen, 葛根)
  • cattail pollen (pu huang, 蒲黄)
  • lotus leaves (he ye, 荷叶)
  • gynostemma tea (jiao gu lan, 绞股蓝)
  • ginkgo leaves (yin xing ye, 银杏叶)

All these ingredients can be boiled or simmered with hot water and consumed as tea. However, before you try any herbal teas, it is advisable to consult a physician first.

5. Blood Sugar Problems

A young woman eating a healthy, balanced meal of fresh salad and avocadoes
A healthy diet comprising fresh vegetables, fruits, and essential food groups helps lower high blood sugar levels.  

However, when blood sugar levels go below or above the healthy range, low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) or high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia) can occur. However, if left untreated, unhealthy blood glucose levels can lead to diabetes, heart-related complications, and other serious diseases.

To keep blood sugar levels under control, ensure regular meals comprising important food groups, limit sugar as well as processed and refined carbohydrates. At the same time, you can also regularly check your glucose levels using a simple blood glucose meter. 

In TCM, treatment for focuses on three categories of symptoms:

Upper

  • Symptoms: excessive thirst, dry mouth, irritability, a red tongue with a thin yellow coating, and rapid pulse.
  • Herbal treatment: coptis chinesis (huang lian, 黄芩), ophiopogon japonicas (mai dong, 麦冬), and radix rehmannia (sheng di huang, 生地黃).

Middle

  • Symptoms: excessive hunger, bad breath, weight loss, frequent oral ulcers, excessive thirst and urine output, constipation with dry stools, a red tongue with yellow coating, and a strong rapid pulse.
  • Herbal formula: gypsum fibrosum (shi gao, 石膏), rhizoma anemarrhenae (zhi mu, 知母), and gardenia jasminoides (zhi zi, 执子).

Lower

  • Symptoms: excessive turbid urination, lower lumbar pain and weakness in the knees, fatigue, dizziness, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dry lips, dry and itchy skin, a red tongue with little or no coating, and a thin and rapid pulse.
  • Herbal formula: Six-flavour Rehmannia Pills, made with schisandra (wu wei zi, 五味子), chinese yam (shan yao, 山药), and wolfberries or goji berries (gou qi zi, 枸杞). 

Apart from the diseases listed above, there are many more health problems that afflict young people today. Therefore, if you notice any unusual symptoms or discomfort, visit your doctor immediately. Additionally, it’s ideal to do regular health screenings for early prevention of these conditions.

This is an adaptation of the article “轻真的健康?”, which first appeared on the Health 123 website.

References

  1. Science Daily. 2020. Having high cholesterol levels early in life leads to heart problems by middle age. [Accessed 23 October 2021]
  2. American Diabetes Association. Blood sugar can make all the difference.  [Accessed 23 October 2021]
  3. S Food & Drug Administration. 2021. High Blood Pressure–Understanding the Silent Killer.  [Accessed 23 October 2021]
  4. National Library of Medicine. 2015. Staying Young at Heart: Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Adolescents and Young Adults.  [Accessed 23 October 2021]

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