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Teens and young adults

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Teens and young adults face many emotional and physical changes. How young men deal with these changes can affect their health — both now and in the future. Young men need to make choices in many areas, from drugs to sex and from driving to doctor's visits. Smart choices matter. They can help young men feel strong, look good, and achieve their goals in school, sports, and more.

Check out some ways to develop a lifetime of good habits:

  • Stay away from drugs and alcohol. They can hurt your mind, body, and relationships. Remember that drinking or doing drugs can lead to risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex. And using muscle-building drugs like anabolic steroids can be dangerous, too.
  • Drive safely. In the U.S., motor vehicle accidents are the leading killer of 15- to 24-year-old males. Always wear a seatbelt and follow road rules. Never drive after drinking or doing drugs, and don't ride with an impaired driver.
  • Avoid violence. Nearly 4 out of 10 high school boys in the U.S. said they fought in the past year. Try to stay away from dangerous situations, and learn positive ways to deal with conflict.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking affects every part of your body, your looks, and your athletic ability — and it is highly addictive. Don't light up, and try to avoid other people's smoke. Also, remember that smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes aren't safe either.
  • Exercise and eat well. The number of overweight teens in the U.S. has more than tripled in the past 20 years. Overweight teens are at risk for serious health problems, including diabetes. Exercise and good nutrition can help you stay a healthy weight — and help you stay strong in many ways.
  • Take care of your sexual health. Almost half of new sexually transmitted infections (STIs) reported each year are among 15- to 24-year-olds. A person can have an STI and not know. If you are having sex, use condoms every time. You might also consider getting the HPV vaccine, which helps protect against genital warts and anal cancer.
  • Visit the doctor. Make sure to schedule routine checkups so your doctor can find any problems early. Check-ups also are a chance to ask questions, review healthy habits, and discuss any personal problems. Stay up to date on any vaccines you need. Ask if you need to get vaccinated for meningitis if you're heading off to a college dorm for the first time.
  • Take care of your mental health. Many mental health problems first develop in the teen and young adult years — and suicide is a leading cause of death among young men. Treatment works well, so get help as soon as possible.
  • Watch out for environmental health risks. Make sure your home is tested for radon and has a carbon monoxide detector. If you work with chemicals, wear the right safety gear. Apply sunscreen to protect your skin from sunburn. Find out if your tap water has lead in it and, if so, learn ways to reduce your risk from it. And don't forget to protect your ears from noise pollution by turning your music down.

If you are a teen or young adult male, you can use the resources below to learn more about taking care of your health and making smart choices.

If you are a parent or parent figure to a teen boy, your presence really matters. Teen boys need your love, guidance, and support each day to help them become healthy, confident, and capable. Build a relationship with the young men in your life that includes trust, honesty, setting limits, and open lines of communication.

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Content last updated: January 10, 2011.

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