You know what they say about an ounce of prevention? Well, consider this statistic: The most common chronic diseases impact the economy at a rate of more than $1 trillion a year, according to a nonprofit economic think tank.
This includes the cost of medical resources used to treat avoidable illness, the impact of these illnesses on productivity and in turn the country’s gross domestic product and effect on long-term growth of the economy, according to a report by the Milken Institute titled "An Unhealthy America: The Economic Burden of Chronic Disease." But seven of the most common chronic diseases, including diabetes, stroke, heart disease and lung conditions, are preventable.
Beyond the collective increased productivity that comes with staying healthy, our own individual health care costs could be lower. Here are a few health moves that could ultimately save you money.
Lack of sleep makes you more susceptible to colds and infections, often leading to higher health care costs and missed work. Although it may be difficult to get to bed at night, getting enough sleep could help you maintain your health and boost your productivity.
According to a 2008 study by the National Sleep Foundation, 31% of survey responders said they need at least eight hours of sleep to function at their best during the day, but only 20% of respondents report that they sleep this much. About three in ten respondents said sleepiness interferes with their daily activities at least a few days a month and 5% said it does so every day or almost every day.
However, it’s possible to have too much sleep. According to the National Institutes of Health, while having less than six hours sleep per night leads to an increased risk of illness, having more than nine hours of sleep per night does as well.
Although job stress has been one of the leading types of stress, according to the American Institute of Stress, the economic downturn is taking a toll as well.
Stress itself can be a factor in many health problems. And, in addition to increasing crime and violence, stress can lead to substance abuse and other unhealthy lifestyle habits that could cost you money.
Notably, financial stress is taking a bigger toll on women than men. According to the American Psychological Association, 84% of women are stressed out about the economy, compared with 75% of men.
To deal with stress, keeping active can really make a difference, especially if you’ve been laid off and you’re sitting at home searching for jobs full time.
Instead of knocking back a few drinks after work to deal with stress, you could take up activities that keep your mind occupied, or break out the free weights and let your endorphins do the work. Yoga and other relaxation techniques could be especially helpful. (For ideas, check out our recent story on how to stop worrying.)
Eat Your Veggies
Obesity has a major impact on job productivity and absenteeism. Employees who are moderately to extremely obese have reduced productivity on the job, even compared to overweight or mildly obese workers, according to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Workers with moderate to extreme obesity had the greatest health-related restrictions at work, including limitations in ability to meet physical work demands and additional time needed to complete tasks. In this job market, that could impact your employment status if your company is planning another round of layoffs.
You don’t need to switch to a raw vegan diet to lose weight, however. Although snacking on chips, cookies and candy throughout the day may be a tough habit to kick, adding some fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and beans to your diet could significantly improve your health by providing the fiber to fill you and the nutrients you need.
Vegetables, onions and garlic have long been known to reduce the risk of cancer. Recently, scientists have discovered a molecular explanation of how eating vegetables could cut a person's risk of developing the disease, according to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer,
To add a variety of nutrients, nutrition experts recommend choosing fruits and vegetables from every color of the rainbow, including dark green vegetables, like spinach, broccoli and leaf lettuce; orange vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and carrots; as well as starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn and dry beans, like kidney beans, black-eyed peas and black beans. (MainStreet recently posted a few delicious, cheap bean recipes.)
Stuff the Smokes
Beyond the actual cost of a pack of cigarettes, which has reached more than $10 in some states, cigarette smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke has led to $96.8 billion in productivity losses annually in the United States, according to a Centers for Disease Control report on analyses from 2000 through 2004 published last year.
While die-hard smokers may be sick of dramatic anti-smoking commercials, the fact is, smoking significantly increases your chances of developing a preventable medical conditions including heart attack and stroke. It also increases children’s and other loved ones’ risk of developing health problems due to second hand smoke.
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