When it comes to health care, it is important to take preventive measures to reduce your risk of disease and to detect and treat diseases in their early stages. Preventive care will be beneficial not only for your health, but also for your finances: It helps to reduce or eliminate the costs you would otherwise incur.
Most health insurers are required by law to cover 100 percent of preventive care measures. If you have coverage, you may as well take advantage of this fact by opting for preventive screenings.
Preventive medicine is not really a new concept. Annual check-ups with a doctor have been recommended for years. However, there is increasing emphasis on it, as the cost of not taking preventive measures is made more and more clear.
For instance, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) actually estimated in 2014 that 40 percent of all deaths in the U.S. were preventable. The number one killer of U.S. residents is cardiovascular disease, yet a full 80 percent of deaths from this condition are thought to be preventable.
By taking preventive measures, individuals can save their lives while also saving on health care costs.
This article focuses on diabetes, cancers and cardiovascular disease. Let’s take a look at some of the financial costs inflicted on people by these conditions and then how you can reduce your health care costs through prevention.
The Individual Costs of Preventable Disease
According to the American Diabetes Association, individuals with diabetes pay $7,900 each year, on average, for ongoing diabetes treatments.
The National Cancer Institute shows that some cancer patients pay $12,000 a year for a single cancer drug. Overall, cancer cost $94 billion in 2015 for Americans between the ages of 16 and 84.
Chemotherapy can cost $12,000 per cycle, and some patients require many cycles and courses.
Clearly, all this is a problem, since cancer patients are actually much more likely to declare bankruptcy as healthy people.
When it comes to cardiovascular disease, $316 billion in health care costs was racked up in 2017, according to the American Heart Association.
As you can see, the financial burdens imposed by these conditions can be quite high. Fortunately, they are in many cases preventable. However, this requires you to take action now. The first thing you should do is get screened. Screening is one of the most important things you can do to save your health.
As mentioned above, health insurers are required by law to cover 100 percent of screening and other preventive costs. One of the most troubling preventive health care statistics, however, is that 25 percent of those with health coverage do not get regular checkups!
If you are at risk for a preventable condition, either through lifestyle habits, other conditions such as obesity or a genetic history, it is even more important to get screened regularly. If your doctor tells you that you are at risk for certain conditions, or have something like prehypertension or prediabetes, it goes without saying that it’s time to make some changes. Your doctor may diagnose you with a condition like prediabetes or prehypertension, in which case you have time to turn things around before they worsen.
Additionally, treating cancer early is less expensive than treating it once it’s significantly advanced.
You should follow guidelines for screening based on your age and risk factors.
Screening is also important if you are already diagnosed with certain conditions: for example, if you have diabetes, you’ll want to get routine eye exams so that your doctor can notice the onset of diabetic retinopathy.
Risk factors for developing serious conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease or diabetes can be mitigated through lifestyle changes. Let’s take an in-depth look at some of these risk factors, conditions and what you can do to improve your health and save money.
Watch Your Weight and Eat a Healthy Diet
Obesity is one of the most common conditions that can lead to preventable disease. Around 36 percent of American adults are obese, and another 32 percent are overweight.
The Ancient Greek doctor Hippocrates recognized obesity not only as a disease in itself, “but as a harbinger of others.” Today, we know that those who are obese are at a higher risk of developing type-2 diabetes, heart disease and many types of cancer including liver and pancreatic cancer.
Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) higher than 30. You can calculate your BMI by inputting your height and weight in the CDC’s online Adult BMI Calculator.
To begin losing weight, you really have to watch what you eat. You’ll have to reduce your calorie intake and increase the proportion of your diet that’s made up of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. Avoid processed snack foods like potato chips that can quickly rack up your calorie intake.
Red meats and saturated fats in particular are something to avoid, as they have been linked to cancer. Getting a healthy supply of fruits and vegetables infused with antioxidants may help prevent free radical damage, an internal effect that can lead to cancer.
Next on our list is exercise.
The truth is, our bodies were not made to remain sedentary. Therefore, not getting enough exercise can be detrimental to our wellbeing.
According to the CDC, regular exercise reduces your risk of certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of exercise each week. This would translate to a little more than 20 minutes each day of the week, 30 minutes each for five days a week or 50 minutes each for three days a week.
Keep in mind that this does not have to be strenuous exercise. It can be something as simple as going for a walk. Some kind of movement is what you want to be aiming for, as sitting in a chair all day is not healthy.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is important in maintaining your body’s internal balance, also known as homeostasis. Sleeping less than seven hours per night can also adversely affect your immune system, as studies have shown that people who get less sleep are more susceptible to viruses, for example.
Those who get fewer than seven hours of sleep each night are more likely to have problems such as heart attack. Obesity rates are higher in those who don’t get enough sleep.
Chronic stress is linked to lack of sleep, and it can also wreak havoc on your health. If you have trouble sleeping as a result of stress, consider adopting practices such as meditation, yoga or tai chi, which have been shown to reduce stress. Of course, yoga and tai chi can also count as forms of physical exercise, so you’ll be doing two things simultaneously to improve your health.
Smoking, like obesity, is a huge health risk.
According to the CDC, people who smoke are 15 to 30 times more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers. It’s not only lung cancer that can be caused by smoking, but also mouth and throat cancers, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, acute myeloid leukemia and many others.
Overall, the CDC reports that 40 percent of all cancers are linked to tobacco use and therefore preventable.
Smoking is also a risk factor for type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Therefore, cutting out smoking is a way to lower health care costs but also to save all the money you’re spending on tobacco products.
If you make lifestyle changes and get regular checkups, you will have a better chance of not developing conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease. or certain types of cancer. You can also prevent diseases before they have a chance to increase the pain, suffering or financial loss you go through.
Positive lifestyle changes are, in fact, one of the best ways to save money on health care. Think of all the above as a preventive health care “cost-benefit analysis.” Is overeating or not getting exercise really worth the health and financial difficulties you could incur as a result?
Work with your health care providers, but also start taking your health into your own hands. Consider that your diet and habits of today could affect you decades down the line and take the steps you might otherwise wish you had.