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Top 10 Health Investments for the New Year (and Beyond) 

cardiovascular health

Illness has become very expensive these days. So, staying well is more important than ever. You must keep your body and mind healthy if you want your finances to be healthy, too. Here are the top 10 health investment tips of time and money:

1. Use Your EAP

Learn how to access your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). It costs you nothing. On the other hand, stress, depression, relationship problems, alcohol or other substance use problems can be very expensive. Mental health issues like these can lead to physical illness, and every type of physical illness is made worse by these mental health conditions. If you are in need, EAP is by far the most economical and accessible resource you can find.

2. Stop Smoking

If you use tobacco, you must quit. Even if it hasn’t made you sick yet, it costs a bundle to use tobacco, almost $2,000 a year for a pack-a-day smoker. Once it makes you sick (and it will), your treatment could cost tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. But trying to quit cold turkey, without help, rarely gets the job done. Only 3 to 5 percent of cold turkey attempts work. Most employers offer tobacco cessation assistance; see if there is a program available at work. It may be free. Learn what your health plan offers for cessation coverage, such as for medicines and programs, which are far more effective than trying to quit without help. And you can always use the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line (1-800-QUIT-NOW) free.

3. Take Your Meds the Right Way

Prescription medicines can be expensive. But, the most costly prescription may be on one that you don’t buy! That is the one your doctor prescribes, but which you fail to take. You must take your prescriptions exactly the way they are written, 100 percent. If your doctor’s advice is unclear, ask questions and don’t leave the office until you fully understand the answers. If you sense a problem later that worries you or that makes it hard to take your prescriptions 100 percent correctly, talk to the pharmacist. It’s free! If the store window is too busy, ask for a time you can return, or a time the pharmacist can call you. But don’t stop or skip medicines! Your doctor prescribed them for a good reason.

4. Have an Emergency Plan

It’s 3 a.m. Who do you want to take your call? If you or a family member is sick or injured, you need to decide what to do very quickly and in a stressful situation. If the situation seems dangerous to life or limb (chest pain, uncontrollable bleeding, stroke symptoms, seizure, etc.) then call 911. If it isn’t that kind of situation, call Affinity Nurse Direct (1-800-362-9900). Mistakes in those situations can be costly, either of money, or of health. Make the call, get advice, do it right the first time. Don’t guess.

5. Limit Alcohol

People who have drinking binges aren’t necessarily alcoholics. And an occasional binge is not the same as a “bender.” But regardless, it is a strain on your health. That amount of alcohol is enough to increase accident risks, both on that day and the next. It is enough to increase blood pressure, cause heart rhythm irregularities, and stress the liver. The binge drinking definition (five or more drinks for a man, four or more for a woman) comes from research that shows this much alcohol is too much for the body to handle safely. If you choose to drink, you must do so only moderately, generally not more than two drinks in a day. That extra beer or two will cost you more than just what you pay the bartender.

6. Prevent Diabetes

How easy is it to get diabetes? Very easy! To help prevent it, you need to do two things: eat fruits and vegetables every day, and exercise and be active. It’s what you do every day that matters. Do whatever it takes!

7. Cut the Soda

Sweetened sodas contain high fructose corn syrup, which is clearly linked to an increased risk of diabetes. Studies have shown that people who average just one can of soda a day have an almost 50 percent greater chance of developing metabolic syndrome than people who average less than one soda a day. Considering that a 12 oz. can of sweetened soda contains the equivalent of almost 10 teaspoons of sugar, this shouldn’t be a surprise. But even diet sodas increase the risk of metabolic syndrome! Their artificial sweeteners “sharpen the sweet tooth” and make people eat more sweets. So, drink less soda – a lot less. The healthiest beverage is also the drink that is free and available everywhere – good old H2O!

8. Aspirin Therapy

Has your doctor advised you to take an aspirin, or a baby aspirin, every day to reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke? Then, you’d better take your aspirin! As simple as it sounds, aspirin is among the most effective preventive treatments known to science, for those people in need. If your doctor hasn’t advised you about this, then ask your doctor if you should take it, particularly if you’ve ever had a heart problem or stroke.

9. Safety First

Home accidents are common, can be tragic, and cost money. Falls are the most serious type of home accident. Prevent falls by following these steps:

  • Throw away that old and rickety ladder, and replace it with a new one that is safe and solid. It will cost less than the co-pay from an emergency room visit for a broken arm.
  • Put up secure handrails in stairways and use them.
  • Fix broken steps.
  • Use a night light.
  • Don’t tolerate throw rugs that may slip and slide.
  • Promptly salt or sand your slippery, icy steps this winter.
  • Christmas lights that you can hang while both your feet are on the ground are just as festive as the ones your crazy neighbor puts on his rooftop!

10. Get Your Screenings

Don’t miss the preventive screenings that are needed for your age and gender. Men need to begin annual prostate cancer screening with an exam and blood test (PSA) by their doctor by age 50 (45 for African-Americans and for those with a family history). Women need to start annual mammograms at age 40. And, everyone by age 50 needs colorectal cancer screening (colonoscopy, or sigmoidoscopy/barium enema plus fecal occult blood testing). An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And, it costs a whole lot less!

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