If you live in America, you cannot afford to get sick. Medical debt is the #1 reason for bankruptcy in the USA.
In 2014, 40% of Americans had medical debt. This is not surprising given that many of the top illnesses in the USA are chronic conditions associated with lifestyle factors, including diet, exercise, and sleep.
Fascinated by the important role behaviors have on both physical and mental health, I became a health psychologist. I’ve worked with individuals living with heart disease, breathing disorders, and diabetes. But I found the work I do with people living with cancer to be most rewarding.
Here is the secret to living a healthy life: it’s no secret at all. We all know what we need to do, it’s making the changes that’s the hard part. But if health is something you value, your future self-will thank you for any changes you make today.
10 Leading Causes of Death in USA
According to the CDC, the 10 leading causes of death in the USA in 2016 were:
1. Heart disease
To lower risk, quit smoking and eat healthfully
Researchers are continuing to gain knowledge about causes of cancer. Yes, some cancers are believed to have a genetic component. But many are associated with exposure to carcinogens (e.g., tobacco smoke, Agent Orange), radiation, viruses (e.g., HPV), diet and obesity (e.g., colorectal), and even alcohol (e.g., head and neck cancers, esophageal cancer). To lower risk, quit smoking, lose excess weight, eat healthfully, exercise, use sun screen, receive regular cancer screenings, and use protection during sex.
Including motor vehicle accidents. To lower one’s risk, wear seatbelts, do not drink and drive, and don’t drive distracted.
4. Respiratory diseases (e.g., COPD)
To lower one’s risk, the #1 thing one can do is quit smoking.
Stroke is often associated with smoking and with high blood pressure. To lower one’s risk of stroke, quit smoking, lose excess weight, eat healthfully, exercise, and if you have hypertension be sure to monitor your blood pressure.
6. Alzheimer’s Disease
Researchers are not sure about the causes for Alzheimer’s disease. We do know that to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, get plenty of sleep, manage stress and depression, connect with others, exercise, and eat a healthy diet.
To lower one’s risk of Type II diabetes, lose weight, eat healthfully, and exercise. For those who are already living with diabetes, it is also important to monitor your blood sugar levels regularly.
8. Influenza and Pneumonia
9. Kidney Disease
What do these 10 have in common?
10 Ways To Save Money and Improve Your Health
1. Drink water
2. Eat meals based around fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, and grains
3. Avoid processed foods and eating at restaurants
4. Quit smoking
I know that quitting smoking can be the hardest habit that many of us will have to break. But this one choice may have the biggest life-saver and money-saver of all.
5. Reduce alcohol consumption
6. Don’t ask of help with things you can do yourself
7. Walk or ride your bike rather than driving
8. Get Plenty of Rest
While exercise is important, so is rest. Many of us are living with insomnia or have become dependent on sleeping aids. But there are a number of behavioral techniques that can be used to improve sleep. For example, establish a regular sleep-wake cycle and make your room conductive to sleep (e.g., darken the room and don’t watch TV in bed).
9. Meditate or practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that can help us increase awareness of our internal experiences such as our thoughts, emotions, sensations. This is a skill that can be developed with just 5-10 minutes of practice a day. All it requires is our attention.
- Formal mindfulness practice
- paying attention to breathing, scanning the body for tension, hearing
- meditation, visualization
- Informal mindfulness
- mindful of everyday activities, such as eating, walking, or just being present in the moment
10. Finally, if you live in the USA, consider whether a Health Savings Account (HSA) is right for you
When looking into health insurance, consider whether a High-deductible plan with a HSA is a good choice for you. High-deductible plans can have much higher deductibles than standard plans. However, once the deductible is met the co-pay is often much smaller than in the standard plan. And preventive care/well visits are usually still covered 100% (with no deductible).
The co-pays for your high-deductible plan can be paid using money in your HSA.
With an HSA, most employers make a contribution to your account each month. You can (but usually don’t have to) also contribute money to your HSA. Any money you contribute is not taxed (lowering your taxable income). Plus, it can earn interest.
NOTE: For 2019, the contribution limits are $3,500 for a single plan, $7,000 for a family plan.HSA contribution limits and qualified expenses can change, so check with the IRS.
HSAs can be used for qualified medical expenses (including co-pays, prescriptions), and some expenses your health insurance might not cover, such as dental procedures, glasses/contacts, fertility enhancement (e.g., in vitro fertilization), drug addiction treatment, acupuncture. Again, the list of qualified expenses can change year to year, so check the IRS rules.
After age 65, money can be withdrawn for any reason (though you’ll pay income tax on nonqualified expenses). This is why some people consider a HSA to be an additional vehicle for retirement savings.