If the shaky economy’s got you worried about the high cost of health care, you’re not alone. Maybe you’re like the 45 percent of people who are cutting back on medications. Or the 42 percent buying fewer fruits and vegetables.
Or the 43 percent of boomers concerned about future medical bills.
As a society, we need more affordable health care for all, and soon! And if everyone in North America gets their blood pressure, weight, cholesterol and blood sugar normal, and stops smoking — the U.S. and Canada will save more than 33 percent on lifetime medical costs and balance our budgets for as far as the eye can see (past 2082!). But until the politicians sort out health costs, here a few simple swaps YOU can make now.
Save $20 every time you do.
We’re serious! If you’re still asking, “Where’s the beef?” instead of “Where’s the fish?” start socking away $10 per burger to cover the cost of future heart disease, and another $10 for future wrinkle creams. Choosing salmon over beef doesn’t just subtract a lot of artery-clogging saturated fat from your diet. It also gives you omega-3s,
which protect against heart disease and stroke, and keep your skin smoother, too.
Tip: Wild salmon is a top but pricey omega-3 source. Go for canned salmon or frozen salmon burgers. They’re way more affordable and are usually made of leftovers from Alaska’s wild salmon catch.
Save $500 per month.
A crisp spinach salad. Extra sprouts and romaine on your sandwich. Eat more of whatever green veggies are in season or on sale and for pennies a day you’ll cut your odds of big blood sugar problems by 14 percent. Avoid type 2 diabetes and avoid the $6,000 a year that diabetics pay out of pocket for added health care they need.
Extra credit: Ask your doc for a fasting blood sugar test to check for prediabetes, the stage when there’s still time to avoid full-blown trouble. Most of the one in three Americans who have prediabetes don’t know they do.
Save up to $2,400 per year.
Avoiding artery-clogging saturated fat (yep, that burger, butter, full-fat cheese and milk, most baked/processed foods) is smart. Even smarter: Eat more nuts, tofu, oatmeal, barley and cholesterol-lowering plant sterols and stanols (found mainly in heart-smart margarines). Just cutting sat fat drops your dangerous LDL cholesterol by 8 points. Doing both can slash LDL by a stunning 24 to 28 points! Your $2,400 savings come from the
cholesterol-lowering medications YOU won’t need.
Save $7 to $13 a day.
All exercise burns calories. But only strength-training helps you burn ’em 24/7, because unlike fat, muscle tissue burns calories constantly. That’s why doing it plus cardio (brisk walking, biking, dancing) helps you lose stubborn pounds and keep them off. The money you save comes from avoiding or reversing obesity, which shrinks your bank account by $2,650 a year for guys and $4,880 for women. That includes higher insurance premiums and medical expenses, but not the food money saved by eating less!
Save $300 to $700 per month.
Think you can’t afford fresh food? Only buy produce that’s in season or on sale; add money savers like dried or no-salt canned beans, brown rice and store-brand 100 percent whole-grain bread. Skipping salty processed and fast foods will slash your threat of high blood pressure (90 percent of us are at risk). That means you’ll avoid blood pressure meds and lower your odds for stroke — which typically costs $24,000 in out-of-pocket expenses in the years after diagnosis.
Save your life.
You’ve cut back on needed medications due to the recession? Nearly half of Americans are taking this risky step. Yet more than half of Americans could be saving serious money by switching to generics. Do it! Skipping drugs can backfire big-time, boosting your blood pressure (blood sugar, cholesterol) and landing you in the hospital. That’s a swap no one should make.
The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show” and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic, are authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” For more information go to www.RealAge.com.