It’s fair to say that many of us become complacent about our health, especially if we’re downing the pints, eating day-old pizza, lounging on the sofa, and still looking pretty good in the mirror. However, complacency means you won’t be taking simple preventative measures against common health conditions or be aware of symptoms to look for. It’s a better idea to be aware of health risks and informed of the symptoms.

That being said, even the most health-conscious of twentysomethings may dismiss particular health conditions simply on account of age. If you thought you had to spend a good 56 years regularly visiting the local cafe for a full English in order to form cholesterol problems, or that only Uncle Charley’s blood pressure was an issue, you may be in for a shock. As it turns out, many health conditions don’t care about age as much as we thought.

Parkinson’s

According to the Parkinson’s Disease Society, 1 in 500 people — approximately 120,000 in the UK — have Parkinson’s. While it usually affects those over 50 years old, 1 in 20 people will be under 40 years old. Currently, no method to cure or even slow down the disease has been found, although treatments can enable a sufferer to minimize the most difficult symptoms.

What is it?

Parkinson’s occurs when dopamine-producing brain cells die off, for reasons currently unknown. Dopamine is the chemical used to communicate messages around the brain for co-ordination and movement. When approximately 80% of a person’s dopamine-producing cells have died, the person will begin to exhibit the typical symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Symptoms and signs

As the brain struggles to communicate messages, a person will notice particular symptoms which become more evident over time. 70% of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s first notice a tremor in one hand. Other symptoms include slowness of movement and stiff or rigid muscles. The National Parkinson Foundation highlight muffled speech, stiff facial expression and small, cramped handwriting to be possible signs. Non-motor symptoms include disturbed sleep, urinary urgency and depression.

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Arthritis

Arthritis is commonly associated with the elderly, but in fact affects people of all ages. According to ArthritisCare.org.uk, over 9 million people in the UK (that’s 1 in 5 of adults and 12,000 children) suffer from one of the 200 (and counting) forms of arthritis.

What is it?

When joints become consistently inflamed, sufferers can experience pain and discomfort, especially when moving around. This is arthritis. The causes are unknown and there is currently no cure. However, there are many ways to help a sufferer relieve symptoms and maintain an active lifestyle, with as little discomfort as possible.

Symptoms and signs

There are many different forms of arthritis. Generally, however, sufferers will experience stiffness, pain, discomfort, and fatigue. The pain could be a sharp stabbing pain or a mixture of aches. These symptoms may be more evident on some days than others.

Impotence

Call it Erectile Dysfunction, call it impotence, call it whatever — your gigglestick ain’t happy and you ain’t laughing either. Surprisingly, 7-8% of men between 20 and 40 years will experience erectile dysfunction.

What is it?

The condition is an inability to achieve and maintain an erection, making intercourse impossible. There are a range of psychological and physical reasons for impotence, from work-related stress to drugs (prescription and other) to cholesterol. Often the issue rectifies itself, but if you have repeated or continuous episodes of the condition, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor to rule out more serious, underlying causes. In most cases, small lifestyle changes, such as reducing stress and worry or drinking less alcohol, should get the Colonel up and ready for the fight once more.

Urinary Incontinence

We know that older people may suffer a few occasions of "leakage" and you may forgive your girlfriend for "letting some out" when she’s in a fit of giggles, but the 3 million people in the UK who suffer from urinary incontinence are not all old or laughing hysterically.

What is it?

For several reasons, your pelvic floor muscles (which retain urine in your bladder until you’re sufficiently positioned at the toilet, urinal or bush), fail to do their job. Usually, your muscles would hold off the passing of urine until the bladder is full; it would then send a signal to your brain to pull off at the next rest area. Usually, you’re in control and can tell the muscles when to relax. Urinary incontinence can occur due to weak pelvic floor muscles (known as stress incontinence) or when incorrect signals are sent between the brain and bladder (known as urge incontinence). There are ways to ease the symptoms such as exercise (to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles), electrical therapy and medication.

Glaucoma

Everyone can potentially suffer from glaucoma, although it is often related to age. The condition can be hereditary. According to the Glaucoma Research foundation, if you have a family member with this condition you are four to nine times more likely to develop it yourself. African Americans are at the highest risk at a younger age.

What is it?

Glaucoma, being a condition of the eye, gradually steals sight. The optic nerve carries images from the eye to the brain, but becomes damaged with the condition, sometimes caused by excessive pressure in the eye. Often, both eyes are affected to varying degrees.

Symptoms and signs

The first signs may be the loss of peripheral vision, which you may unknowingly compensate for by turning your head. Other symptoms might be sudden eye pain, blurred vision, redness in the eye, or tunnel vision. Symptoms may not be seen for a while, so regular checkups are a good idea — especially if you’re in a high-risk group.

Should I Be Paranoid?

Now that you know that you’re not only at risk of conditions usually related to your own age group, there’s no need to replace complacency with paranoia. It is far better to simply be mindful of your health. Here’s what to do:

— Consult your family history to see which conditions you may be more prone to developing and take note of their signs and symptoms.

— Familiarize yourself with your usual state of health. Get to know your general aches, twinges and skin condition so you can more easily spot significant changes that may be developing symptoms.

— Remember that many "old age" health conditions are brought about sooner due to the lifestyle you lead. Obesity and overeating, recreational drugs, lack of exercise, or too many boozy nights are sure to have some effect — especially if you’re already at risk of particular conditions.