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The Times
  • Betsy Cross: It's not gonna cost you — if you stay healthy

  • New Englanders have a reputation for being, um, frugal. We buy things on sale and we put on a sweater instead of turning up the heat. We take pride in our ability to save money. Well, I’ve got another way to save even more! Be healthy. Don’t smoke, get diabetes, heart disease or cancer. Simple, right?

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  • New Englanders have a reputation for being, um, frugal. We buy things on sale and we put on a sweater instead of turning up the heat. We take pride in our ability to save money. Well, I’ve got another way to save even more! Be healthy. Don’t smoke, get diabetes, heart disease or cancer. Simple, right?
    Maybe not simple, but definitely achievable for many people. "Most chronic illness can be prevented or at the very least postponed by making long-term healthy lifestyle choices," says Patricia Bollinger-Blanc, BSN, MEd, RNBC, Clinical Director at the Natick VNA. We hear headlines about the skyrocketing cost of healthcare and that this disease or that illness costs the country X number of dollars each year. The numbers are incomprehensible — literally, billions of dollars and millions of people each year.
    But what does that mean in the day-to-day life of the average person? A little rough math tells us a lot:
    • Families who have one child with diabetes can expect to pay up to 10 percent of their household income each year caring for that child. The median income for US households is just under $51,000, which means the household cost of a child with diabetes is about $5,100 a year.
     
    • The annual cost of smoking one pack of cigarettes a day can be well over $5,000 a year. Add to that the increased health and homeowners insurance rates, personal hygiene (teeth whitening, etc.) and cleaning (household carpets, etc.), it adds up quickly. If you smoke and plan to sell your car or home, expect to sell them for 10 percent less than a non-smoker.
     
    • Heart disease is costly, too. One third of all deaths in the US are attributed to heart disease and nearly $1 of every $6 in US healthcare expenditures are spent on heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control. These 83 million Americans spend more than $444 billion on health care each year, an average of almost $5,400 per person per year.
     
    • Cancer is another one. Taking into account doctor’s appointments (co-payments and lab tests), treatments (chemotherapy and radiation) not covered by insurance, medication costs (including co-payments and over-the-counter drugs), transportation, care-giving such as home health care, personal care assistance and/or a nursing facility and employment and legal issues. Depending on your diagnosis, your care and your coverage, you could spend between $2,000 and $400,000 a year out-of-pocket!
     
    • There may not be anything we can do to completely prevent these diseases, but we sure can try! Take a look at your lifestyle. Do you eat a mainly healthy diet? Do you exercise more days that not? How’s your blood pressure? Do you visit your doctor regularly and have screening exams as recommended? Study after study has shown that these regular healthy habits work. People who eat right, exercise and visit their doctor are generally healthier than those who don’t.
    Page 2 of 2 - Cheaper and better for you? Now that’s the ultimate in Yankee frugality!
    Betsy Cross is Director of Development for the Natick Visiting Nurse Association (Mass.), a not-for-profit health care organization providing home care to thousands of people throughout MetroWest each year. For more information, call the Natick VNA at (508) 653-3081.
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