Put good stuff in.
Keep bad stuff out.
I’m writing close to a dozen posts on preventing and containing health care costs over a two week period, but if you take nothing else away, let it be this: in order to keep your health costs down (before insurance comes in to play at all), you must:
1. Put good stuff in to your body (nutrition, healthy food, rest, sleep, water, clean air, exercise)
2. Keep bad stuff out (unhealthy food and drink, smoke, toxic chemicals, bacteria/viruses)
Sure, you should probably due your annual preventative physical exam. Under most health plans, they and many other preventative screenings are now free and without co-insurance or co-pay, thanks to the Affordable Care Act . And you might even get an HSA bonus incentive for going. But even that is secondary to what you can do in adopting a healthy lifestyle. By the time something has been screened, you’re already a step behind.
What you put in to your body and what you keep out are the two things that you actually have control over. Preventative health care at its most fundamental level.
How much more complicated does preventative health care need to be?
Personal finance has thousands of related component and subjects, but there are two themes always at the center – income and expenses. Health care is the same way. What you put in to your body and what you push your body to do is connected to everything health related, and greatly impact what you end up spending on health related products and services.
I don’t intend to diminish any genetic or disease related afflictions. There are those unfortunate cases when something completely rare and unpredictable happens to a person – even when they have done everything right.
And eventually age gets the best of everyone.
But before that happens, if you want to take preventative health care in to your own hands and limit future related health care expenses, good stuff in, bad stuff out.
This is backed up by the scientific community. The American Cancer Society (ACS) published its findings on preventative health measures that cancer survivors could take to prevent occurrence and recurrence of cancer, in a report called “Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Survivors”
The ACS found that to reduce the chance of cancer returning and increase the chance of surviving, cancer-free, after a cancer diagnosis, survivors should:
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- Get enough physical activity (at least 150 minutes per week)
- Eat a healthy diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruits and whole grains
In other words:
1. Put good stuff in.
2. Keep bad stuff out.
Choosing the Healthier Alternative
For many, this is easier said than done. If you fall in to that category, my advice is: the more you can adopt behavior into your lifestyle, the more successful you will be in sticking with it. In other words, it has to habitually become part of who you are and not just something you occasionally do.
Have a dog? Guess what – the more you walk him, the happier and healthier he/she (and you) will be. When you start feeling guilty for not doing so, it’s become part of your lifestyle.
Have an opportunity to bike to work vs. sit in 4,000 lbs. of gas guzzling steel? Bike! When you start craving a bike ride home, it’s part of your lifestyle.
Push yourself through a workout, or put it off another day? Make it automatic that you’re going to do it, no matter how much willpower you have that day, and it will become part of your lifestyle.
Go kayaking for a few hours on the weekend vs. sit at home and watch sports? The desire to get outside can become part of your lifestyle.
Planning ahead and cooking at home or getting takeout? Lifestyle.
Grow your own organic veggies vs. buy pesticide doused veggies that were driven in from 3,000 miles away? Lifestyle.
Three healthy meals versus continuous snacking? Lifestyle.
Get enough sleep versus relying on sugar and caffeine to chemically get you through the day? Lifestyle.
You get the idea.
The healthier alternative is rarely the “easier” of the two. But once you’ve adopted it in to your lifestyle you don’t even question how easy it is or not. And the reward is that the healthier option is also more fulfilling, happiness-inducing, and success building.
The choice is yours.
What keeps you motivated to choose the healthier alternative? And what preventative health measures do you take?