Financial Benefits of a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle

Since so many chronic diseases and obesity along with related hospital stays and doctor visits are directly linked to poor diet and lifestyle choices, we definitely advise taking the healthy approach which is actually quite easy as well as cost effective.

Here are our thoughts and references concerning the topic:

A recent statistics show that boomers are more overweight and obese than previous generations (almost 70%).  This wave of 77 million strong is setting the stage for a massive strain on our Medicare program.  Only one-half of boomers said they are exercising regularly.  60% of those  said they are currently dieting to lose weight.  However, a look around indicates their efforts are not producing the desired results.

According to an article by Jennifer C. Kerr of the Associated Press titled, Baby boomers worry about finances, health costs, one of the main boomer concerns is healthcare costs and their ability to pay their medical bills.

According to the Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll, 43 percent of boomers polled said they were “very” or “extremely” worried about being able to pay for their medical costs, including long-term care.

It is really no wonder.  Health care costs for new retirees will be significant.  The article cites a study by Fidelity Investments that estimated a 65-year-old couple retiring this year with Medicare coverage would need about $230,000 to cover medical expenses in retirement. This estimate factors in Medicare’s premiums, co-payments and deductibles, as well as out-of-pocket prescription costs.

It’s been said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  This seems to be truer now than ever.  We should all be working on taking better care of ourselves now, in order to avoid preventable healthcare problems in the future and reduce potential medical costs.  In fact, if there was no healthcare insurance or Medicare coverage, it’s a safe bet that most people would pay more attention and take better care of themselves.  Why risk getting sick if many of the most common health issues and modern diseases are preventable?

Chronic disease or “dis-eases” like cancer, diabetes, heart and lung disease are not contagious and do not appear overnight.  They come about gradually as a result of continual stress and disruptions in our natural physiology.  In the United States, these conditions kill close to 9 out of 10 people.  They all have common risk factors and causes and many are preventable.

Stroke and heart related conditions account for almost half of all non-infection related deaths.  Cancer is the next leading cause followed by respiratory diseases and diabetes.  It should be noted that most diabetics die of cardiovascular complications.

There are many other conditions under the chronic disease category.  The United Nations has chosen to focus on these four because of their common risk factors: tobacco use, excessive alcohol use; unhealthy diets; lack of physical activity and environmental carcinogens.  All chronic diseases or conditions are the cumulative result of poor diet, lifestyle and environmental conditions.  The large majority of these risk factors are 100% under the control of every individual.  It is the responsibility of every individual to take the actions required to prevent them.  No drug or medicine can do it for you and none ever will be able to do it because they will not eliminate the causes.  You can’t fight Mother Nature and expect to win.  

According to Dr. William Herman, a study author and professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Michigan, lifestyle intervention was twice as effective as drug therapy in reducing the development of type 2 diabetes over the course of 10 years.  Not only that, it also significantly reduced medical costs over the same period of time when compared to drug therapy.

A study conducted by Catalyst Healthcare Research (CHR) found that most Americans who are overweight or obese see themselves as being in good health.  These same people are often well educated and are aware of the health risks related to obesity.

This suggests that many Americans may not connect their own weight or exercise level with perceptions of their overall health. This is reflected in their diet and exercise (or lack of both) because more than half of those surveyed do not follow a structured exercise program according to the study.

Why are unhealthy people so reluctant to change their lifestyles? It seems even people with serious health issues don’t make changes they know have been proven to be helpful and healthful.

Research has shown that smokers who quit after having their first heart attack were 37% less likely to die of another attack compared to those who continue to smoke.  Yet, at least 40% of smokers who survive a heart attack still continue to smoke.  Other studies have shown that these patients can reduce their risk of dying by about 30% by exercise-based rehabilitation.  Yet, most remain inactive.

Quitting smoking results in improvement in many other health conditions and it’s the same story for increased activity and exercise.  People obviously, know these things so why don’t they make appropriate changes in their lifestyle?

When it comes to saving our healthcare system and actually improving our collective health, no amount of money, insurance, doctors, new technology or drugs will be successful or save us from rising costs, disease and early death.  Healthcare and health insurance costs continue to rise by almost 12% per year with many insurance premiums seeing even bigger jumps.  There is no sign that it is going to change.  On the contrary, deteriorating health and its associated costs are destined to spiral out of control.  What can we do about it?  Putting your hope in a “doomed to fail” national healthcare system is not the answer.  This is because money, insurance, doctors, new technology and drugs will never make you healthy.

If this is true, the question is still: What can we do about it?  The answer lies in personal responsibility.  We all need to be responsible.  We as individuals need to take control of our personal “healthcare”, doing everything in our power to be healthy.  The most common diseases we face today can be prevented by taking personal responsibility for your individual health.  This is the only solution.

It is universally accepted that if you want to have enough money in your retirement years, you need to start saving and investing as early as possible.  The sooner you start the more you will accumulate and the bigger your potential cushion will be.  Smart people do not place their hope in the Social Security system.  Even many pension plans are at risk these days.  In the end, it’s totally up to you to ensure you will have enough resources to live the life you have dreamed about and worked so hard for all those years.

The situation is no different when it comes to your health.  Investments you make now will pay off later, and again, the sooner you start the better.  What do we mean by investing in your health?  It means making the kind of health and lifestyle decisions today that will give you the best chance to be where you want to be in the future.  Like the financial investment world, there are no guarantees, but having a sound plan and taking necessary action will give you the best shot at success.  Money will buy you “stuff” but it is health that will buy you the time to enjoy it.

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.

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