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.

Join the Discussion

2 Responses to “How Your Health Affects Your Long-Term Wealth”

  1. mcspencer

    Wow, I never knew you could withdraw from a health savings account at a later date and use the funds for other purposes! And as someone who prefers sometimes to go out of network to get the best health and dental care, it would make sense for me to get a HSA to cover those cost-shares…I hope there’s an article on DW on how to open one!

    And jumping up and down is a new one on me as well. How easy is that?! Besides helping to build bone strength, I imagine it engages the glutes and the leg and core muscles, so that’s good too.

  2. AnnieLaurie Burke

    First, the advice on saturated fats is balderdash. Any number of medical researchers over the last 20 years have shown that saturated fats do not cause chronic health problems. The mortality/morbidity statistics from countries that consume far more sf’s than we do in the US (which the the pop media dubs “paradoxes”, but which scientists recognize as data that disprove the old diet hypothesis) will show anyone with a modicum of science/math ability what hokum the demonization of fat is. Second, it is possible to avoid those “chronic diseases”. And not by jumping up and down on a hard surface. But, by getting off the Standard American Diet, doing moderate exercise, and avoiding the outdated government dietary guidelines. It takes a little brain exercise (but that’s good for you, too) to pass over health recommendations as they are regurgitated by the pop media, and go straight to the source. Go back to the original research reports, and the responses/critiques thereto, in the journals in which they are published. You will be amazed at, and your health will benefit from, the real deal. While you are at it, you might want to check out the real deal on sun exposure, too, but that’s a topic for another day.