Reform Your Own Healthcare

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Published on: 2009.07.23

Healthcare reform seems to be the big media topic on the national stage the last few days, mostly because of President Obama’s initiative that’s currently being debated by Congress.

Let’s take a look at the bigger picture, though. Most of us can drastically reduce our own healthcare costs simply by making better decisions. (If you’re one of those lucky or rich people who has full coverage on every thing, then this blog might not be for you…)

First of all, I’ve seen people in emergency rooms with severe or life-threatening injuries that have to wait in line behind people who bumped their heads on car doors or got a scratch in the kitchen. Whatever happened to the days when you “walked it off”? (If you misread this paragraph, please don’t leave an idiotic comment; just read it again.)

But that’s not all of us. All of us aren’t going to the emergency room very often.

Many experts say that simply living healthier can alleviate billions in annual national costs.

1. If you smoke, try to quit or at least cut down. If you don’t smoke, then don’t start.

2. Eat fewer high-fat foods and more fruits and vegetables. The leading cause of death in the U.S. is heart disease, much of which is caused by smoking and poor eating habits.

3. Exercise. (Some health experts have begun saying “be active,” because it sounds more user-friendly than exercise.) Take a walk with your spouse or kids. “Any amount of exercise is better than none,” said one expert.

4. Get regular sleep. Studies have shown that people with regular sleeping habits are far healthier than people who don’t.

5. Drink in moderation. Again, almost every study that’s been done shows that small amounts of wine, and even beer, consumed each day can have positive health effects. But more than two drinks a day, and you’re destroying your body.

6. Lose Weight. Carrying too much weight increases your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, gallbladder disease and arthritis in the weight-bearing joints (such as the spine, hips or knees). It’s difficult to lose weight, I’ve been told. Sure, it helps to have a faster metabolism, or to be young. But the same principle applies to almost all overweight people: cut down intake, increase activity.

7. Cancel your tanning booth appointment. Not long after it became common knowledge that excess sun-exposure causes skin cancer, it suddenly became very popular to have high concentrations of this same kind of light blasted onto your skin. This is just silly.

There are dozens of other lifestyle changes, some easier than others, that can have a massive effect on how much you’ll end up spending on healthcare in the long run. Even better, you’ll cut down how much taxpayers (me) have to spend on your healthcare.

The best part is, many of these tips above actually will save money for you immediately. Smoking and drinking less puts money in your pocket. If you’ve been tanning, and you quit, that’s more money you’ve saved. If you exercise regularly, that’s time that you’re not spending on other things — and many of those other things cost money.

In fact, the only one of the above tips that will cost you money is eating healthier. On average, healthy food costs more than processed fatty foods, because the unhealthy foods are mass-produced and can be stored for months at a time. Fresh foods, especially fruits and vegetables, are simply more expensive to produce. However, with careful planning and shopping, you can make even this lifestyle change without breaking your budget.

Further advice will be welcome in the comments.

“All of the major causes of death (such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease and injury) can be prevented by your lifestyle and the choices you make.”

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