It Doesn’t Have to Cost You
Tossing seemingly decent kicks may seem decadent, but studies suggest that sneakers replaced after about 300 miles of use can protect me from sports-related injuries. I figure this is a small price to pay to ward off injuries that could cost me thousands of dollars in physical therapy, doctor appointments and treatments (and those priceless hours away from my favorite running trails).
Even with the new Affordable Care Act in effect, Americans spend their money on record high health care bills. According to the American Public Health Association (APHA), our per capita health spending is more than twice the average spent by other Western nations. Plus, even though 75 percent of these health care costs are related to preventable conditions that may be avoided by lifestyle changes, only 3 percent of our health care is spent on evidence-based preventive measures.
So, what are some low- or no-cost ways we can keep ourselves healthy? Read on for seven tips.
Take a Baby Aspirin at Night
Want to lower your risk of heart disease? Popping a baby aspirin before you go to bed at night can help protect your ticker, according to recent research from the Netherlands. In fact, the National Commission on Prevention Priorities estimates that taking good preventative measures, like a daily aspirin, could possibly save upwards of two million lives and nearly $4 billion a year. The simple reason aspirin works better at night? It appears to thin the blood more efficiently then to reduce the chance of clots that cause heart attacks and strokes.
Go for a Run (or Even a Brisk Walk)
Physical activity is crucial to good health. It can boost your immune system to help your body fight off germs naturally. Go for a good sweat regularly and you may even help protect yourself from some types of cancer, like lung and prostate, says the National Institutes of Health. The best part: you don’t have to splurge on a costly gym membership to get your heart pumping.
Consider taking leave for the great outdoors by going for a jog. Running, or taking a brisk walk outdoors, is always free — and can happen anywhere, any time. Aim to do it for at least two and a half hours a week to reap the benefits, say researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Trade in Costly Supplements for Whole Foods
Swap out those jars of costly vitamins or nutritional supplements and reach for whole foods instead. A growing body of research is showing that swallowing pills to hold off disease isn’t as effective as you’d like to think. A recent piece in the Annals of Internal Medicine actually warned: “Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Your Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements.”
In fact, consuming some supplements, like calcium and vitamins A and E, may actually up your risk of kidney stones or stroke, according to ConsumerLab.com, an independent tester of health and nutrition products. Considering that Americans spend about $28 billion a year on this “hope in a jar,” stocking up on fresh fruits and vegetables could actually save us money.
Wear Sunscreen All the Time
Slather up! Wear a broad spectrum — meaning a lotion that protects your skin from both ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA) light — sunscreen that has SPF 15 or higher to help protect yourself from various forms of skin cancer, including deadly melanoma. More than two million people are diagnosed with skin cancer annually, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, with the direct cost associated with treatment to the tune of $1.5 billion. Wear sun block whenever you leave the house and reapply it every 80 minutes you’re outdoors, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, and you can protect yourself from one of the most common kinds of cancer.
The most important liquid we should drink each day is also the cheapest. Scientists agree we should be grabbing water over booze, soda and other sugary, bottled beverages. Water helps our organs, from the heart and GI tract to our kidneys, to function as they should.
Researchers have also found that staying well-hydrated also seems to deter the onset of chronic diseases like hypertension. And warding off dehydration is not just good for your body, it also improves your mind with better cognition, according to a study published in Frontiers journal. And the free kind you find in your tap and public drinking fountains just may be healthier than the bottled H2O. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans spend about $4 billion a year on the bottled kind, paying as much as 2,000 times more than the cost of tap. Yet the water from our faucets must go through far more thorough inspections than commercial bottled water does.
Eat Less Meat and Plenty of Produce
How’s this for an incentive for choosing salad over chicken wings? You can cut your risk of some diseases like cancer and diabetes simply by upping your daily intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, say doctors. The sweet spot for intake: around 20 ounces a day, according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. (This amount reduced the risk of mortality by 10 percent.)
Plus, as we age, research is finding that a key to longevity may come from skipping meat. A new article published in Cell Metabolism shows that those who ate a diet heavy in animal products were four times more likely to die of cancer than those who went for low-protein, plant-based meals, a risk akin to smoking. When you eat around eight servings of the green stuff per day, there’s also some indication that your mood may be better. A British Journal of Health Psychology study found that those who consumed this serving size of fruits and veggies reported to be more energetic, happier and calmer than the meat-lovers.
Wash Your Hands — A Lot
Hand washing is one of the cheapest and simplest ways to ward yourself against a whole gamut of infections, since a little soap and water goes a long way in thwarting a lot of nasty communicable diseases, according to a recent study in the journal Lancet. It’s also a smart way to save on healthcare costs. The flu, for example, costs businesses as much as $10.4 billion in direct costs (think: hospitalizations and outpatient visits), according to the Centers for Disease Control. So, don’t throw good money down the drain on medical visits, antibiotic prescriptions and the like. Wash those pathogens away in the sink instead.