Health

Your Most Pressing Pre-40 Health Concerns, by Age

Published On 04/12/2016 Published On 04/12/2016

Birth: it's the first step in a long, slow march toward death. And while we hope things like cancer and heart disease get in line (a long, long line) behind a steady stream of colds, flus, and hangnails, there's inevitably one health concern or another just waiting to rear its ugly head and send you on a hypochondria-inducing Google search of minor symptoms that WebMD inevitably makes you think are the start of the zombie apocalypse.

And while yes, there's always something to be worried about (sometimes very worried about), you can narrow down your worries based on age.

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0-3 months: Total helplessness

You're reliant on your parents for literally everything. You can't eat, roll over, or get clean without the helping hands of a caring adult. What if they forget about you? What if you get a diaper rash or cough and no one notices? There's nothing more terrifying than having zero control over anything in your life.

But hey, you've got your lungs. Put 'em to use and make the big humans pay attention. I'm sure they'll love that.
 

1-2 years: Putting anything in your mouth

Choking, undiagnosed food allergies, an inability to read poison labels. Pretty much everything you transfer from your grubby little hands to your mouth has the ability to spontaneously kill you.

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3-5 years: General mobility

Walking is usually considered a good thing -- an important life skill, even. But walking, running, jumping, and taking off down the street on a tricycle are actually disastrous health-wise for most people under 5. The inevitable bumps and scrapes are one thing, but mobility paired with a brain that can't assess risk? That leads to situations like 3-year-olds walking across highways and 4-year-olds sneaking into swimming pools. I say put your child on a leash and attach him to your hip.

Quick public service announcement: distracted parents, toddlers and swimming pools don't mix. This is no laughing matter. Just don't put your kid on a leash, people!
 

6-8 years: Your friends' food allergies

Because nothing kills your birthday party like a gluten-, egg-, dairy-, and nut-free birthday cake.

And just so people don't freak out -- no one's suggesting your child's allergy isn't serious or worth making accommodations for.

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10-12 years: A newfound control over mobility, combined with fearlessness

Have you ever seen a 10-year-old play sports, contact or not? That kid will fly around with reckless abandon, putting every ounce of youthful energy into activities not yet tainted with any sense of danger. That's a scary combo.
 

13 years: All the hormones

Just when you thought you were adapting to middle school -- BAM! -- you get hit with zits, periods, crying jags, bouts of unexplained rage, and unfortunately timed boners while watching Discovery Channel nature films in science class.

Add to that the ever-constant worry about who likes whom and PE classes where you're forced to change (and maybe shower!) in front of other students, all while wondering whether you're developing at a "normal" rate. It's really a wonder most of us make it out alive.

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16 years: Mono

Sure, the "kissing disease" sounds like something most high schoolers would wear like a badge of honor, but if it knocks you out of school for weeks or months on end, you might as well kiss your social life goodbye. I mean, will any of your friends even know you're missing? Or care?
 

17 years: Pregnancy

You're probably having sex, and if you're not, you probably want to be having sex. What you don't want is nine months of growing a baby and a lifetime of feeding, dressing, and educating said baby. Especially if you're still trying to grow, feed, dress, and educate yourself.

Guys, this applies to you, too. Wrap up, every single time.

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18 years: Feeding yourself

Sure, you've got the mechanics down (I hope), but now you have to learn how to shop and cook to put some semblance of food on the table. Ramen and toast certainly aren't rocket science, but learning to budget for food and a night out? That's some serious business. If you're lucky, your mom may still come to the rescue.
 

21 years: Antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea

Because nothing says "I love you" like a discharging, burning genital infection that just won't go away.

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24 years: Booze and drugs

If you're still in school at 24, you're either a scholar seeking multiple degrees, or you've been a little too generous with the partying. Maybe both. Having a good time on a Thursday night? Completely normal. Buying a 12-pack every day so you'll never run out of beer? It's time to reassess.
 

28-40 years: Childbirth

Holy fuck, you're about to squeeze a watermelon out your body. How is that not terrifying? No wonder death during childbirth used to be so common.

Also, parenthood. Now you're responsible for keeping a helpless human being alive. Who made these rules? I wish you good luck.

Subbotina Anna/Shutterstock

30 years: The flu

Who the eff has time for the flu? Certainly not someone with a job, two kids, and who really can't afford to miss two weeks of work -- especially if it means missing more work when your kids catch the virus, too. If an illness is going to knock you on your ass, it better be something more serious than the flu.
 

33 years: Hypochondria

Because you know that ache must be an undiagnosed autoimmune disease (they often pop up in your 30s... the internet says so!), and was that mole there before? Did it change colors? And now that you're thinking about it, you can't move as well as you used to, maybe you should talk to your doctor about arthritis.

Sure, your actual risk for developing a serious disease is still low, but you could be the cautionary tale -- it's better to be safe than sorry, right?

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35 years: Hair and vision loss

Some of the first tell-tale signs that you're getting old. Fight the good fight with Rogaine, large-print books, and denial while you still can.
 

40 years: An extra 20lb

If you gain an average of 1lb a year after high school, now's the time you look in the mirror and say, "Where the hell did these 20lb come from?" The answer is: a desk job, stress, fast and processed foods, an unused gym membership, and probably 20 or 30 other contributing factors.

The weight gain alone may or may not be something you're worried about (hey, who doesn't like a little extra cushion for the pushin'?), but that 20lb could signify other health problems. Hit the doctor's office stat for blood work and blood pressure readings. It's better to head major problems off now than wait another 20 years (and 20lb).
 

Over 40: Death

Spoiler alert! It's only a matter of time.

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Laura Williams is an exercise physiologist and fitness writer who's only 33, but is always one awkward movement away from a back spasm. She's also fully in denial about vision loss. Share your own health worries on Twitter: @girlsgonesporty.

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