Medical research has come a long way, and as a result, people live much longer than they used to. While no one can argue that expanding the average person’s lifespan is good, many folks are not enjoying the quality of life that we would hope as they get older. Many of the elderly have chronic conditions that overwhelm their daily activities or they get diseases repeatedly, which ultimately raises health insurance premiums. Learning about and practicing preventive healthcare, i.e maintaining your body and good health throughout your entire lifetime, is properly the best method to prevent disease from happening in the first place.
When you are sick, you have no choice but to think about your health; it’s right there in your face – you feel awful. Preventive health care must be planned and executed ahead of time, even when illness is absent. You must build healthy habits even when it’s not convenient. You must believe that maintaining a health lifestyle is important enough to make a few sacrifices. Eating right, getting exercise and avoiding destructive substances like tobacco, alcohol and excessive amounts of sugar and salt are crucial, as is getting enough sleep each night. Healthy habits are an “automatic” defense against most illnesses and can provide us a long, healthy – and thus happy – life.
Another aspect of preventive healthcare is finding and treating disease as soon as possible. Some sort of illness hits everyone eventually, but many, many diseases – when caught early – can be nipped in the bud and full health returned quickly. So it is important to become educated about illness and their symptoms, and what it takes to maintain good health overall. Moreover, it is also important to visit your doctor on a regular schedule – at least annually or possibly more often as you get older – in order to stay healthy and catch any disease early. If detected soon enough, a full cure is much more likely. It is also much more unlikely that most disease will become serious enough to negatively affect your lifestyle with debilitating symptoms or even loss of life.
Preventive healthcare provides many direct benefits to the individual: Not having to deal with uncomfortable or painful symptoms, feeling more energetic and just being able to fully enjoy your daily activities. However, our health care system is geared to treating illness after the fact, once the acute symptoms force you to the emergency room. Even though many health insurance plans do cover preventive medicine such as regular check-ups, unfortunately, our medical system does not emphasize it. Therefore, the responsibility is for each individual to make sure the doctor understands the personal goal of staying healthy, and that preventing disease is a high priority.
Secondary benefits also result from all of us dedicating ourselves to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. No one can argue that medical care is expensive, and preventing disease can help avoid a large financial loss or bankruptcy.
Preventive healthcare should be considered an investment or personal insurance, with keeping your retirement nest egg as your return on investment. Take advantage of any preventive benefits that your insurance company offers; seriously, these companies are happy to cover preventive medical expenses because they have the statistics that proves how much it saves them down the road. Insurance companies employ many people with degrees in finance and economics, so they know the importance of maintaining good health and how expensive it is to treat a chronic illness or serious malady.
For you and me, the choice regarding our health is simple: Either invest a relatively small amount (which may be covered 100% by insurance) in order to stay in good health, or pay a huge amount later to treat the disease that is bound to eventually hit us. Since major medical expenses could easily exceed our maximum insurance coverage, this second choice could cause us financial ruin as well. Weigh the relatively inexpensive cost of regular check-ups against the enormous expense of major care such as cancer treatment or long-term home healthcare visits by a nurse or health aide. Major medical expenses often destroy a person’s life savings; adding the insult of poverty to the injury of physical suffering. The years of frugally planning, saving and investing in order to enjoy your retirement years can be erased by neglecting physical health during those same years. Remember, most diseases are highly preventable by subscribing to preventive healthcare habits.
Interestingly, as more and more people get on the preventive healthcare bandwagon, we will also be benefitting all of us collectively. By minimizing our individual demands on the health care system, we contribute to keeping the system efficient, affordable and and functioning smoothly. On the other hand, if too many people wait too to get treated (when the illness or injury is most like more serious), the burden becomes much greater on the system overall, and the quality of everyone’s health care suffers and medical expenses rise. The inevitable result will be higher health costs, higher health insurance premiums, poorer medical services for each individual, and a highly-taxed medical system.
It is clear that preventive health care is important. To start your own “good health” practices, there are four things you can do immediately without any medical knowledge:
- Don’t smoke or use other tobacco products; Drink only in moderation (and red wine in the most acceptable use of alcohol)
- Eat a proper, balanced diet to get the correct amount of nutrients and calories daily
- Exercise at least three days per week; Aerobic exercise will build muscle and endurance
- See your doctor regularly for check-ups
Take the time to learn more; educate yourself. Most importantly, start working on your healthy habits today. A habit is something you do without thinking about it, and building good habits doesn’t take that long. I guarantee that you will thank yourself later by being healthier, having more energy and enjoying life to its fullest.