What Can College Students Do To Protect Their Health? by Maris McIntyre, D.O.
Sat, 08 Sep 2012
The transition from high school to college ushers in fresh opportunities and a higher degree of independence for young adults. As students focus on exercising good academic judgment, Dr. Maris McIntyre of Hinsdale's Family Practice Associates said they should also make sure to guard their wellbeing. "This is often their first time out on their own. You have everything in front of you and you have to make those decisions," McIntyre said. She said college students' nutrition often suffers without parental oversight and encouraged co-eds to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their daily diet.

"Pick up a salad. Have fruit drinks - they are better than a candy bar. And don't run out the door without a morning bite. The menu can be as simple as a container of yogurt, rich in probiotics, or a bowl of oatmeal. "You need to eat regular meals. Don't skip breakfast. That definitely gives you the fuel that you need for the rest of the day," she said. Resist the temptation to nosh on junk food while studying, McIntyre added. "Keep healthy snacks in your dorm room for late at night, like energy bars and dried fruit," she said.

Burning the midnight oil may be unavoidable on occasion, but it shouldn't become a habit. Getting less than the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night can end up hurting academic performance. "Try to avoid the all-nighters. If you do have to pull one, try to take a nap the next day," she said. "(Sleep deprivation) definitely impacts cognitive function and causes increased stress." When stress builds, go for a walk around campus. Exercising regularly is even better. McIntyre said her college offered free fitness classes, everything from yoga to fencing. "There are a lot of resources there, like the campus gym and intramural sports," she said.

Stay hydrated, McIntyre advised, and avoid the binge drinking that seems endemic to college life. "For men, that means five drinks in a short period of time. For women, it's four," she said. "And don't drink and drive."

Wash hands frequently or use hand sanitizer to keep dorm viruses from spreading. "When your roommate is sick, get some disinfectant wipes and clean off any communal surfaces, like a shared
computer or appliances," she said. "For the bathroom, you don't want to share towels or soap, and you should really wear sandals in the shower." Getting the seasonal flu shot is highly advised. Some family physician offices may have them already, or students can check with the campus student health services.

If parents sense a child's stress level is high, try sending a care package or encouraging them to come home for the weekend. "You kind of have to take a cue from your child. Be there in the way that you think is appropriate for your child," McIntyre said. Don't hesitate to take advantage of counseling resources available at college, she said, and feel free to contact the family physician even when away from home. Good habits formed now will be easier to maintain post-college, McIntyre said. "This is your chance to develop healthy patterns for a lifetime."

This article appeared in The Hinsdalean, written by Ken Knutson.

Dr. Maris McIntyre is a family physician with Family Practice Associates located 911 N. Elm Street, Suite 301 in Hinsdale. To schedule an appointment, please call 630-856-8650.

Primary Care and Specialty Medical Group Website Design | Medical Website Design by Vital Element, Inc.