Swapping paranoia for preventative care: How to look after your health

In 2024, our health is coming first and that includes check ups and preventative care. Prioritising your health in your 20s lays the foundation for a healthier future. 


A common form of preventative care that people tend to forget is alcohol and other addictive substances. Recognising when a habit is going too far is vital in preventing an addiction.

Luke Worsfold is the Lead Addiction Therapist and CEO of Lisa Inside Addiction, who has also has his own past dealing with overcoming addiction. He says that, “recognising when a bad habit has turned into an addiction is crucial”.

His key signs for recognising when a bad habit has turned into an addiction are:

  • Loss of Control: Inability to limit substance use despite wanting to.
  • Neglecting Responsibilities: Prioritising the habit over work, family, and other obligations.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Experiencing physical or emotional withdrawal symptoms when not using the substance.
  • Increased Tolerance: Needing more of the substance to achieve the same effect.
  • Continued Use Despite Consequences: Persisting with the habit despite negative impacts on health, relationships, and overall well-being.

“If you notice these sings,” Luke says, “it may be time to seek professional help to address the underlying issues driving the addiction”

He also recommends taking steps such as joining a support group, developing a plan with your therapist, staying committed to overcoming your struggles and building healthy habits to replace addictive behaviours. 

“Taking these steps can help you regain control over your life and work towards long-term recovery.”


As cool as some people might think smoking looks, it’s also a significant health risk. Tobacco is one of the biggest public health threats in the world and over 8 million people are killed from tobacco a year, including non-smokers who inhale second hand smoke (makes you see the smoking area of the club a little differently)

Due to the insane risk of smoking, quitting should be a priority for smokers wanting to improve their health. For those struggling to quit, there are multiple resources out there:

  • Nicotine Replacements
  • Medications
  • Counselling and Support Groups
  • Wellbeing Exercises

Skin Health

Around 18% of GP consultations are related to skin diseases. Despite the rain outside your window, summer is coming. It’s important to take steps to protect and look after your skin.

Most skin cancers are not too severe and can be treated, however, some cancers such as malignant melanoma can be life-threatening if not caught early.

Carolina Goncalves, the Superintendent Pharmacist at Pharmica, doesn’t think the summer means you have to hide away in your house but does think that preventative steps must be taken.

“The sunshine can still be enjoyed and basked in, but it is recommended to utilise certain protection methods to avoid as much sun damage to the skin as possible.”

Her key tips for looking after your skin in the summer includes:

  • Sun cream: The NHS recommends creams with an SPF of at least 30 and a UVA protection rating of 4 stars.
  • Be careful with tanning oils: It can be tempting to use oils to achieve a bronzed look, but doing so can lead to serious sunburns unless sun cream is also used.
  • Limited your time in the sun: You should sit in the shade when possible. If you can’t do that, wear a broad-brimmed hat to protect your scalp from drying and burning
  • Keep hydrated: To maintain skin hydration, you should drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • After-sun lotion: Finally, after enjoying the sun, apply some after-sun lotion to rehydrate and replenish the skin.

Finally, Carolina says that care needs to be taken when listening to influencers who promote sunbeds and tanning injections. 

“Young people must think about the dangers of these trends on their skin and health and their increased link to skin cancer. This also makes it crucial to speak with a medical professional before getting swept away by these so-called ‘hacks’ to achieve tanned skin.”

Screening and Testing

The anxiety of picking up the phone and calling the doctors has got to go. If you think there is a problem, you should get it checked, don’t just assume everything will be fine. It might be fine, but it also might not be. 

In England, 5,000 deaths are prevented by cervical screening, 2,400 bowel cancer deaths are avoided by screening and breast screening prevents 1,300 women dying of breast cancer per year.

Screening is a medical marvel that we need to take advantage of. It can be scary, sure, but a one hour appointment could very well be the best decision you ever make, resulting in a diagnosis and treatment, or simply peace of mind. 

Cervical Screening

Cervical screening (also known as a smear test) is offered to women 25 and over. While it is extremely rare in women under 25, it’s always important to speak to your doctor if you feel something is wrong. The NHS guidelines say you should be offered a pelvic examination if you are bleeding after sex and/or in between your usual periods. 

Breasts Checks

For people with breasts, screening is offered later in life. But it is extremely important to be breast aware and regularly check your breasts for anything abnormal. 

TOP TIP: A common recommended practice is to check your breast while in the shower.

The NHS recommends to look out for:

  • A lump or swelling in your breast, chest or armpit
  • A change in the skin of your breast (think dimpling or redness)
  • A change in size or shape of your breasts
  • Nipple discharge (which may have blood in it)
  • A change in the appearance of your nipple (possible becoming inverted or developing a rash)
  • An ongoing pain in your breast or armpit 

STI Testing

Sexually transmitted diseases are common, particularly in your 20s. Regular testing is crucial if you are sexually active, especially if you go without condoms. 

Symptoms to looks out for include:

  • A burning sensation when passing urine
  • Irritation or discomfort in the genital area
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Pus leaking from the tip of the penis
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain/swelling in the testicles
  • Lumps/rash/ulcers/blisters in the genital area

STIs can also be asymptotic, meaning you may not realise anything is actually wrong. Early detection and treatment can prevent long-term health complications and reduce the spread of infections. 

Before you have sex with a new partner, have an open conversation about your previous testing history and talk about using protection. A lot of people find it an uncomfortable topic to talk about but you know what’s more uncomfortable than asking your partner to use a condom… getting an STI.

Your health shouldn’t be taken for granted and it’s important to take care of it. If you have any concerns about your health, seek out a professional. Of course, it might be easier if the NHS wasn’t so overworked. But you can’t get everything.

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