Personal Health = Personal Wealth

Want to know how to save a lot of money and live a longer life?  Get and stay healthy.

September 2016

By Kathleen Zenisek

Before you retire, you work for your money. After you retire, your money needs to work for you.  And the last place you want to spend your hard-earned money on is copays for hip, knee or valve replacements, diabetes, cholesterol and/or high blood pressure medications.  During your working years, you need to put your health on the same priority as saving for your retirement. Your health is tied not only to your physical well-being but also your financial well-being.

Financial planners see it all the time – clients who thought retirement was the time of less stress and more time to get into shape.  But a lifetime of bad habits can take its toll and avoiding preventative measures may result in chronic diseases, which can quickly deplete a retirement nest egg.  Cancer, diabetes and heart disease account for 83% of health care spending and are responsible for seven out of 10 deaths each year₁.  While you can’t change heredity risk factors, you can take control over lifestyle factors. You want to spend your golden years relaxing not working under the golden arches to pay for your skyrocketing medical bills.

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  That is your financial health plan in a nutshell.  Many times we get too busy or other financial obligations cause us to neglect important preventative care or medication regimens.  This short-sighted thinking can lead to worse health problems and more medical bills down the road - many of which can be avoided.

Americans use preventative care at half the recommended rate.  Regular preventative care can spot warning signs which means early detection and treatment.   Per the Affordable Care Act, your health care provider covers 100% of the costs of preventative care – you just need to make the time and the appointment.

Chronic diseases are often preventable and it pays to get a wellness check for things like cancer screenings (breast, cervical, colorectal), blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol tests, well baby/child/adult checkups and screenings for obesity.  In addition, quitting smoking, losing weight, learning healthy eating and ways to handle stress are other measures to take.

So the key to saving more money and a longer life is to make smarter decisions now and utilize preventative care services.  Manage your existing medical conditions; adhere to doctor’s orders and medication regimens.  Take care of yourself and get enough sleep, eat right, use sunscreen, drink plenty of water and exercise.  Make time for yourself and learn to recognize unhealthy coping mechanisms.  And while you are doing all of that – keep saving and planning for your longer, healthier retirement.

Actively manage your health care:

Your doctor asks you lots of questions – do the same, and ask:

  • What are my cholesterol numbers and what do they mean?
  • What is my blood pressure and how can I control it?
  • What is my blood sugar and what does that mean?
  • Is my weight and BMI (body mass index) at a healthy level?
  • What is an appropriate check-up and screening schedule for my age?
  • Given family history, what can I do to lower my risk?
  • Ask about your medications (why am I taking, interactions, side effects, dose, etc.)

Don’t “Weight”- Fight Obesity:

40% of Americans are obese1 – this raises the risk of a whole host of medical conditions. Maintaining a healthy weight can prevent future problems.

  • Eat five or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day
  • Be physically active for one hour a day
  • Limit your screen time to less than two hours a day (TV, internet, smartphone, games)
  • Remove soda from your life – sugary drinks lead to excess weight, diabetes and more

Reduce Stress:

This leads to many chronic diseases and also can lead to smoking, drinking, drug use and overeating.  Here are free things you can do for yourself at work or at home:

  • Say no to anything that is not important to you
  • Ask for help or delegate – ask yourself “am I the only person in the world who can do this?”
  • Make a plan for everything that needs to get done
  • Make your lunch time “you” time
  • Set limits for yourself and honor them
  • Take weekends completely off from work – no emails, calls, appointments
  • Surround yourself with people who support you

Kathleen Zenisek is a First Vice President and Director of Marketing at First State Bank. 

1. Health Alliance Plan, The Business Case