Finding a primary care physician, establishing a record of family medical history and forming healthy living habits are just a few of the things young adults can do to set the future for their health care needs. (Courtesy PeaceHealth)
Finding a primary care physician, establishing a record of family medical history and forming healthy living habits are just a few of the things young adults can do to set the future for their health care needs. (Courtesy PeaceHealth)

Andrew Bodmer often gets calls from his millennial-aged brother asking for medical advice. Recently, Bodmer, a physician assistant at Providence Medical Group’s Bridgeport Clinic, told his brother to go to see his primary care provider or regular doctor. “I should have one of those?” his brother asked.

Many young adults use immediate care or urgent care doctors when they are sick.

A poll conducted last summer by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 45% of young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 did not have a primary care provider. Meanwhile, 28% of 30- to 49-year-olds do not.

Walking into an immediate care clinic and seeing a professional without an appointment is convenient.

“When you’re trying to establish a baseline in your health care or manage and monitor things through the years, that’s just not an appropriate or effective way of achieving health care,” said Bodmer. Adults need a primary care provider to provide continuity.

With young adults, there may not be a lot of health care needs.

“You’re probably enjoying the best health of your life,” said Bodmer.

Matt Payne is a physician assistant on the PeaceHealth Medical Group urgent care team. He recommends young adults make the transition from a pediatrician to a primary care provider before there’s a health problem.

“There’s not an immediate need to see somebody until there is a need to see somebody,” said Payne.

Bodmer recommends having a routine physical and talking with a doctor about changes in family history. If your parents have a particular health problem, it can reasonably be assumed that you could be at risk, said Bodmer.

It’s also important to have open discussions with family members about medical history, including physical ailments and mental illness, said Payne.

“Without that history, there’s not a lot of clear data to help guide future decisions and screenings,” he added.

Both men recommend forming healthy habits.

“The better you take care of yourself now, the better you’ll be down the road,” added Bodmer.

Work regular aerobic exercise and strength training into your schedule and ditch Grub Hub in favor of healthier meals cooked at home. Make fruits, vegetables and lean proteins like fish and chicken the bulk of your diet. Bodmer advises eating carbohydrates and red meat less frequently. The days of binge drinking should be behind you and alcohol should be consumed in moderation. Moderation should be applied to most things — alcohol, screen time, sugar, etc.

Maintaining a healthy way of life is easier when you’re younger and doing so sets the stage for the future, said Payne.

There are some conditions that young adults should look out for.

Young men and women should know their bodies and talk about any changes with their primary care providers. Testicular cancer is most common in young men and breast cancer can affect young women.

Type 2 diabetes is also hitting younger demographics, said Bodmer. Again, that’s where diet and exercise come into play.

Bodmer notes there’s been a decrease in cigarette use but more and more young adults are using electronic cigarettes. The doctor recommends staying away from these. They haven’t been studied much yet, but anything inhaled into the lungs that isn’t air can be potentially harmful.

For women, regular cervical screenings are vital. Both men and women can now get vaccinations for human papillomavirus (HPV) into early adulthood.

“Vaccinations are really important,” said Payne, encouraging millennials to get flu shots and to keep up on all vaccinations, like the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine. Primary care providers track vaccinations and help patients stay current.

Last but not least, Bodmer says to stop Googling things.

“There’s a glut of information,” he said. But not all of it is good. When typing in symptoms, you may find conditions that do not apply to you. If you have concerns, turn to your primary care physician instead.

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org

Learn more

To connect with a primary care provider, contact your health insurance company to find an in-network provider. People without health insurance can either choose any primary care provider or — for a low-cost alternative — receive primary care at a local health center. Centers can be found through the Health Resources and Services Administration at bphc.hrsa.gov.