3 Tips to Keeping Both Your Finances and Your Body Healthy

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Sometimes in a recession, people cut back in ways that end up costing them more money down the road. A bunch of recent studies highlight just such pennywise-and-pound-foolish decisions, all of them health-related. Here are three just from the past few weeks…

1. Don’t be such a pain

While it may be hard to believe, most Americans do indeed suffer in silence. Chronic and nagging pain costs American employers more than $46 billion in lost work time each year, claims the American Academy of Pain Medication. The three big offenders: headaches, back pain, and arthritis.

A survey last month by the American Osteopathic Association says 90 percent of Americans “underestimate the severity and prevalence of chronic pain.” Specifically…

  • 48 percent don’t believe pain is something that can be eased even with proper treatment.
  • 36 percent would refuse doctor-recommended or prescription pain medicine because they worry about becoming addicted.
  • 31 percent won’t even tell their doctor about their pain they think they couldn’t afford the treatment.

“Chronic pain is a very serious and unaddressed public health issue,” says Robert I. Danoff, an AOA board-certified family physician in Philadelphia. “Many people are reluctant to speak to their physician for fear of feeling hopeless, or simply not knowing how to initiate the conversation.”

That’s a costly attitude. Pain doesn’t just hurt your body, it hurts your wallet. First, it distracts you from working, which can deplete your sick days and your chances for raises and advancement. Second, untreated pain doesn’t often get better on its own. So what can you do?

  • Talk is cheap. Tell your doctor. If you’re worried about paying for pain medication, don’t be embarrassed to say so. Your doctor may be able to point you to cheaper generic drugs and treatments that don’t cost nearly as much.
  • Fitness is free. Headaches and back aches can benefit from exercise, and you don’t have to pay for an expensive gym membership. Check your local newspaper for community groups that offer walking or running groups or free yoga classes.
  • OTC is OK. One big myth about over-the-counter drugs is that they’re all the same – aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), and naproxen sodium (Aleve) are all nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). But they’re very different, says WebMD: “Just because one NSAID doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean a different NSAID won’t work, either. Nonsteroidals are very patient-specific. Different people have different reactions.”

2. Don’t ignore your blood sugar

It’s tragic but true that diabetes is often (although certainly not always) a disease you can prevent, delay, or moderate for very little money – yet too few Americans do so.

That’s not a new revelation. In 2006, The New York Times declared…

Ask any diabetes specialist whether people can protect themselves from Type 2 diabetes through diet and exercise and the answer will be a resounding yes. It has been shown three times, in studies in three countries, one of them the United States.

But this is new: A survey last month by healthcare company CVS Caremark reveals…

Of 3,242 respondents with diabetes, 32 percent reported they have been less vigilant about daily glucose testing due to cost – 24 percent said that cost has led them to be less conscientious about maintaining a proper diet.

Of course, this is a classic case of pay-me-now-or-pay-me-later.

“Given recent projections from the CDC that as many as one in three American adults could have diabetes by 2050, monitoring and maintaining healthy glucose levels is critical to prevent further complications from the disease and avoid even more significant health care costs,” says Dr. Troyen A. Brennan, CVS Caremark’s chief medical officer.

So what can you do? Besides all the great advice from the American Diabetes Association, you can catch a break right now because November is American Diabetes Month. You can receive a free A1c test, which shows your average blood sugar level over the past three months, at participating CVS Pharmacies.

3. You can treat a cold

Not everyone gets diabetes, but everyone occasionally catches a cold. And most pharmacists say we treat those colds in exactly the wrong – and most costly – manner.

A survey last month by Matrixx Initiatives, makers of cold remedy Zicam, found that 72 percent of Americans believe “there is not much they can do about a cold except mask the symptoms and wait it out,” while a third “admit they wait until they feel miserable before taking medications that can help.”

That same survey then interviewed pharmacists, and here’s their money-saving advice…

Even though 53 percent of Americans believe you can treat a cold with expensive antibiotics, they have no effect on the viruses that cause a cold. So stop pestering your doctor for them.

According to the survey, most pharmacists – 52 percent – think taking zinc can lessen the duration of a cold. But whatever you take, don’t wait to do it. “The surveys point to a clear need for pharmacists and doctors to educate consumers on early intervention, and help them identify the best remedies to treat the common cold early and help them get over it faster,” says Dr. Fred Eckel, professor of pharmacy practice and experiential education at the University of North Carolina.

But some home treatments have been proven not to work, and ironically, even though consumer know it, they still do it: “Consumers also tend to rely on a variety of home remedies, including chicken soup, orange juice and vitamins, even though nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of consumer survey respondents acknowledge that some of what they learned from their mothers about catching and treating colds is untrue and not based on science.”

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