BY MELISSA BURNS
College is a time for meeting new people, going through new experiences and generally having a hell of a good time. However, it is not all fun and games, as endless health risks constantly surround students: disease, stress, unhealthy habits that can have long-term effects on your well-being, you name it. In this article, we will go over some of the most common health problems you are likely to face.
1. Infectious Diseases
College involves working and living with groups of numerous other people in closed environments, which is a natural breeding ground for all kinds of infections, starting with a common cold and flu and ending with meningitis and antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus. Some are just unpleasant, and others pose serious health and life risks (meningitis, for example, can lead to permanent brain damage and disability).
What to do about it? Get vaccinated. Some colleges outright require it before you can move into the dorm, but even if your college doesn’t, you owe it to yourself and your health to take care of it on your own.
2. Freshman 15
Freshman 15 refers to quick and catastrophic weight gain often experienced by college students during their first year. It doesn’t have to be exactly 15 pounds, but facts are facts: after starting to live independently from their parents, most people immediately have their eating habits slide. Fast food, carbohydrate-rich dishes usually available in cafeterias and, of course, copious amounts of booze all make their contribution.
Ways of dealing with it are obvious: try eating something besides pizzas and French fries, say no to carbonated drinks and don’t try to drink all the beer in the world. Learning a few healthy lifestyle habits won’t hurt either.
3. Poor Sleep
With all the partying and catching up on studies at the last moment, you are likely to pull all-nighters now and then, and there is nothing particularly life-threatening in it – as long as it happens only occasionally and doesn’t turn into a habit. However, if you spend most of your night up and about and catch up on sleep during lectures, you are not just going to annoy your professors but risk ruining your sleep for years to come. All habits acquired at this period of life are extremely difficult to get rid of later on, so try to develop sleeping habits that are going to help you in future: have enough sleep, maintain regular sleeping and waking schedule (including weekends), don’t eat before bedtime and so on.
4. Lack of Exercise
Even if you exercised regularly throughout high school, when you get started in a college you are likely to have all your routines and habits disrupted. Although most colleges provide excellent opportunities for exercise, many students feel too busy to bother with it. However, having at the very least 90 minutes of physical exercise a week can do wonders to increase your general alertness and mental acuity, making you all the more capable of dealing with stresses of student life. Decreased risk of obesity and heart disease go without saying.
5. Alcohol-Related Injuries
Although binge drinking is indeed not the healthiest habit out there, alcohol itself isn’t as dangerous as poor judgment it entails. About 1,800 American students die every year from alcohol-related injuries – that is, in accidents where inebriation played or could have played some role.
The only way to prevent it, apparently, is to drink responsibly – and to avoid people who cannot or don’t want to follow this rule.
Take measures to protect yourself from these risks, and your time in college is much more likely to be mostly good memories!
Melissa Burns graduated from the faculty of Journalism of Iowa State University. Nowadays she is an entrepreneur and independent journalist. Follow her @melissaaburns or contact at firstname.lastname@example.org