Staying healthy in college

08/23/2010 12:00 PM

11/18/2010 12:13 PM

Q. My daughter is going away to college this year. Any tips on how she can stay healthy and become responsible for her own medical care?

Going away to college carries a whole array of new responsibilities: academics, social life and personal health, to name a few. The topic of transitioning to college life is very broad, so I’m going try to focus on a few main health topics.

Healthy eating and sleeping habits are at the top of the list. Some studies show that only 11 percent of college students get enough sleep, and sleep deprivation has been linked to a poor attention span and lower GPA in comparison to college students who are well-rested. Therefore, sleep should be a priority for college students.

Poor sleep hygiene spills over into the poor eating habits category, because staying up late often leads to late night eating. On average, college students gain between 6-9 pounds during their first year at college. The best way to combat “the freshman 15” (or more accurately, “the freshman 7”) is to avoid fast food, late night meals, frequent snacking and high-calorie beverages. Also, it is important to find time to exercise.

College students need to continue to have annual physical exams with their primary care physicians and make sure their vaccines are up to date, including a flu shot each fall. Girls should be educated about how to perform breast exams. Many people are not aware that testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in American males between the ages of 15 and 34 years. Therefore, boys should be educated about testicular exams as well.

As a final note, make sure your daughter knows where to seek medical treatment should she become ill.

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