Health Secrets I Wish I Knew When I Was 20

  •   Danielle L’Ami

As you get older, you hopefully get smarter. Short of having a time machine, here are some insights gained from experience that are especially useful for young adults.

An image of man looking at his younger self to illustrate health secrets I wish I knew when I was 20

“Ah, to be 20 again!” How many times do people utter this phrase in a lifetime? But there is truth to this statement. If you have ever heard of the song by Baz Luhrmann, Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen, you will know what I’m talking about.

It was based on the notable essay that was written in 1997 by Mary Schmich, a writer for the Chicago Tribune. Baz took the essay and put it to music, which became an anthem to the college graduates of the class of 1999. It is filled with solid advice and insight about what lies ahead for their future. So, without further ado, here are the five health secrets I wish I knew when I was 20.

1. Develop a consistent way to move your body

Most of us are active in our youth as we participate in sports and in general are much more active. However, once we start working full time, most of us view exercise as a challenge or something that we ‘have’ to do instead of enjoying it as we did in our childhood. As a result, exercise often gets the back burner and becomes harder and harder to incorporate.

According to a study discussed in, our level of fitness in our 20s directly relates to our health in our later years. That is, if we exercise in our 20s, we stand a lower risk of developing heart disease and other chronic diseases.

The study involved the analysis of a group of volunteers throughout three stages of their lives. Those who lasted longer on a treadmill in their 20s were less likely to suffer from heart disease side effects 25 years later. For every minute longer they last, it resulted in an astounding 15% lower risk of early death. Want to learn more about other ways to lower your health risks and decrease your risk of an early death? Then try learning about the health benefits of epigenetic tests, tests that examine your genetics and will help to put you on the right track for your inner health.

2. Choose nutrient dense foods that nourish your body

I can safely say that my 20s did not involve much quinoa, kale or reducing my sugar intake. And while I do eat much better today, I wish I had known more about what I was putting in my body 20 years ago.But if you don’t want to be like me, read up on our post that discusses processed foods vs. whole foods and what they do for your body.

If I have learned anything from my research, it is that developing healthy habits is critical in your 20s. Although we tend not to look to our future health, we need to, according to In our 20s, we feel invincible and believe that we have plenty of time to make better food choices later in life. In reality, our food directly influences our genes which will then dictate how quickly we age. Highly processed foods will turn on our aging genes faster than high quality protein or nutrient dense veggies.

We also want to be mindful of how we pair our food groups together. Simple sugars, highly processed foods, or foods that have a high glycemic index will elevate our blood sugar quickly. However, adding in a little fat and protein can help reduce the glucose spike. Keeping our blood sugar levels steady and on the lower end can help protect our eyes, kidneys and other organs from the toxic effects of sugar. discusses how our metabolism slows down as we age, which can even include a loss in muscle mass. Because of these changes, we cannot eat the same quantity of food, type of food or even have late meals. Implementing intermittent fasting in your 20s can be a powerful tool to help you develop healthy habits. As our metabolism slows, fasting is a great way to help us increase our basal metabolic rate. Check out for some great suggestions on how to get started.

Osteoporosis affects the older generations, but bone building happens when we are young. While calcium is important for our bones, we have to make sure we are absorbing adequate calcium from our food and putting the calcium into our bones, not our arteries. In order for this to happen, you need adequate helpers for calcium like Vitamin D3, Vitamin K2, magnesium and trace minerals. Having a healthy microbiome will help you make bacteria that will make K2 and other cofactors. .

Lastly, if you are a man or post menopausal woman, check your iron levels, more specifically, ferritin levels. Many men end up with high levels of iron because they don’t have a way to get rid of their iron unlike menstruating women. Elevated ferritin can cause oxidative stress, DNA damage, fuel cancer and even increase glucose levels. In contrast, iron deficiency can make a person feel tired all the time. This deficiency mainly affects women because of their monthly menstruation. Be sure to regularly monitor your iron levels and include a ferritin level too!

3. Expose your eyes to natural light first thing in the morning and not the phone

When you are in your 20s, you don’t think about the harmful effects of staring at your phone first thing in the morning. Your eyes need to experience powerful blue light first thing in the morning to help establish your circadian rhythm, support your immune system, increase serotonin and much more. Getting adequate natural light in the morning can help improve your sleep in the evening. Getting outside first thing in the morning will also decrease the UVR exposure that you have.

Wrinkles and skin changes happen gradually over time. Yes, sun damage plays a significant role so always make sure your skin doesn’t burn, but highly processed foods, vegetable oils and sugar will also age your skin. (Sugar can be easily eliminated with alternatives such as we discuss in our post on 7 sugar alternatives.) It's important to strike a balance between healthy sun exposure and sun damage.

Check out our recorded live stream about Skin Care here.

4. Stay Connected with Others

Our mental wellbeing is just as important as our physical health. According to, loneliness can drastically impact our mental health. While we will lose touch with people as we age, we can make sure we cultivate and nourish relationships with family and friends while we are young. Many people say “I’ll call her tomorrow” or meet with him later this year, but those proclamations turn into years. Don’t let that happen!

As I get older, I see the value in having strong connections. Research shows that those who feel lonely have a higher chance of becoming depressed or developing dementia. Seniors who are lonely face a myriad of other problems, from difficulty doing everyday tasks to having higher stress levels. If life has thrown you some curveballs, maybe you moved recently away from your social group, try volunteering or being active within your communities.

5. Other Tricks of the Trade

A few other suggestions of some health secrets that are best to start while you are in your 20s.

  • Be Optimistic
  • says that those who choose to see the glass as half full have fewer heart attacks, less depression, and can extend their lifespan by 7.5 years.

  • Challenge the Mind
  • Puzzles help decrease our risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease, improve overall memory, and keep our brains young overall.

  • Laugh a lot
  • Laughter helps us release stress, increase circulation, help you bond with people, increase oxygenation and so much more. The MayoClinic discusses how beneficial laughter is for our well being!

While in reality, I know that none of these secrets are true secrets, they do somehow seem to be cherished knowledge of the older generation. If you are like me, you probably have your own list of things you wish you knew at 20 that you would love to dispense to the 20-somethings in your life.

While the past two decades of my life have taught me a lot, I can’t help but ask if I would have listened to my current self when I was 20? In any case, as Baz notes, “[t]he long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.”

Danielle L’Ami

Danielle L’Ami is a logophile who writes her passion and loves to connect with others through her thoughts and personal experiences. When she is not writing, you can find her watching hockey with her husband, torturing her children with new recipes, or practicing yoga to keep herself balanced.

My Toolbox Genomics empowers individuals in their healthcare journey by creating reports focused on genetic predispositions derived from published research. Test results and suggestions are intended to lead to consultation with one’s healthcare practitioner. MyTBG reports do not diagnose disease or medical conditions. Any lifestyle changes should result from consultation with qualified healthcare practitioners.