How Your Health Affects Your Long-Term Wealth

Four things to do to live healthier, longer

Longevity reports continue to point to one resounding conclusion: You’re going to live longer than you think. In the past three decades, life expectancy rates have risen to 83 years for women and 79 years for men.

Living longer also means that we as a nation — and you as an individual — are spending more on medical expenses. And if you think the vast majority of this healthcare spending goes towards the elderly in their very last years of life, think again.

Today, 84 percent of our healthcare spending goes to paying for chronic diseases — Type 2 diabetes, asthma, osteoporosis, the list goes on. These diseases aren’t just plaguing people’s health and wallets later in life, either. We’re spending much more along the way to manage them.

The flip side of this is that if you get a handle on your health, you can put a huge amount of money in your pocket. Not only will you save those additional dollars instead of spending them on chronic diseases, if you use a health savings account, your dollars will grow tax-deferred. You can use that money at any point to pay for medical needs tax-free, Even better, after you hit age 65, you can withdraw those funds for non-medical expenses without being subjected to the 20 percent fee, though you will have to pay income taxes

But chronic disease — and the related spending — could be prevented if you adopt four healthy behaviors that are completely within your control, says Dr. Michael Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer of The Cleveland Clinic.

These are among the steps Dr. Roizen and I outline in our book, AgeProof: Living Longer Without Running Out Of Money Or Breaking A Hip

Avoid Toxins

Cigarette smoke is the main one here — and yes, secondhand smoke counts, too. What about hookah, you ask? Spending an hour in a hookah parlor is like smoking half a pack of cigarettes. Steering clear of pollution is a good idea, too.

Get Up and Move

Walking 10,000 steps a day is a good baseline. Then, add a couple of days of cardio a week, one day each week of weights, and 20 jumps in the morning and 20 jumps at night on a hard surface. The jumping, particularly important for women, builds bone strength and makes osteoporosis less of a challenge.

Eat Foods You Love That Love You Back

Really, there are only five categories of food that should to avoid: Simple sugars and syrups, stripped carbohydrates, saturated fats, and trans fats. Everything else? Fair game. Just try to keep portion sizes in check.

Do Your Best to Reduce Stress

Meditation, yoga, and a glass of wine are all OK, but to really manage — and eliminate — your stress, you need to fight back. That could mean changing up your diet or training for a 10k.

This also applies to your finances. Taking action — like knowing your numbers (what you earn, own, and owe) and automating your savings and bills — will keep stress at bay.