As America becomes an aging society and chronic illness and healthcare costs are on the rise, we have turned our attention to our own health and the role that our lifestyle plays in shaping our lives. We tend to think of increased health and reduced risk of diseases as the tradeoff for healthy lifestyle patterns and we consume a massive amount of books and articles on every facet of the topic. As it turns out though, there is another trend that healthy living reduces: the cost of health and long-term care. While taking good care of yourself should never replace your savings and insurance for medical and long-term care costs, the more we invest in our bodies and health now the more potential we have for saving on healthcare and long-term care dollars as we age.
Moving our Bodies
According to Nurse.com magazine, “50% of Americans do not exercise regularly or meet the federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic activity.” The list of positive health impacts that regular activity has on our health is long and includes reducing the risk of: high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, brain disease, diabetes, etc. Regular habits of exercise also reduce common risks associated with aging such as falls, brain disease, and reduced vigor. As we age, regular exercise and activity tends to decline and perhaps our ideas about what exercise should look like help feed that trend. The article goes on to point out that, “The take-home message is that physical activity should be part of daily life; it doesn’t have to be high intensity or inconvenient, and it should be fun!” Simply walking 30 inconsecutive minutes a day for 5 times a week can have the desired impact. Simple is sustainable.
Developing a New Diet
According to famous food author, Michael Pollen, the top killers of Americans are all chronic diseases that are related to the “Western Diet”. Because we don’t have sustainable eating habits, we suffer the health risks and carry the cumulative consequences into old age. While purchasing fresh and healthy food now may seem like an investment, it can save us a great deal of money and stress on the high healthcare costs of medications and surgeries later in life. Americans spend the least percentage of their income on food and we may be seeing the risky trade off.
Quality of Life
Put simply, the less disease and decline that we experience, the fewer long-term care and healthcare services we will require. At times it can feel like we don’t have any control over how we age or the cost of healthcare, but the variable that we do have control over is how we care for the body and nurture health in our own lives and decisions. While we may invest in the premiums of long-term care insurance and medical insurance and 401k plans, let’s not forget to invest in our bodies.
Published on October 2, 2015.