This will be the last of this group of blogs, but I wanted to talk about what you can do to help stem the tide of rising healthcare cost. This is going to be about healthy living and accountability. Your circumstances, lifestyle, and personality all play an important factor in this so this will not be a how to guide. More like guidelines. There are four basic pillars that I think are key for getting a healthy lifestyle.
The first pillar. See your doctors! There is the pervading fear that doctors are out to steal all your money by putting you through a slew of unnecessary tests. If you are 45-years-old and haven’t seen your actual primary care doctor since you were a child, yes, you probably will have to go through a battery of tests. This is not to bilk you of your money, but to create a baseline for where you are at. Here is a list of doctors you should be seeing on a regular basis, how often, and why you should see them.
Primary Care Physician (Family Care or PCP): Once a year you should schedule a general check-up. Without insurance this will likely cost you $100-200 a visit. In your twenties this is to gain report with your doctor and set up a good habit of getting checked out and booster shots as you need them. This also helps to start tracking your primary chemical profiles. You won’t need lab work every year, but if something goes wrong it can be caught fairly early. When I was in nursing school I felt overly fatigued and had issues with my weight. I thought stress was the culprit. Turns out I have the beginning stages of thyroid problems. I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t seen my doctor on the regular. In your thirties you will probably have more frequent lab work but nothing crazy. Forty plus adds additional procedures, such as colonoscopies. None of these are to cash in on your paycheck. These are to track your health and catch anything suspicious early. Cancer, hypertension, pre-diabetes, and many more chronic health problems can be curtailed well before they become problems if you see a regular doctor regularly. This is also the office you call with non-emergencies. If I look at the ER list of who is in there, trying to gauge who my next admission is, I get annoyed with seeing “Has been feeling weak for 3 weeks” or “Cough lasting two weeks”. I am not joking, these are real “problems” people come to the ER for at three in the morning. GO SEE YOUR PCP.
Dentist: This is a twice a year event. Without insurance this will likely cost you $100-500 a visit, depending on x-rays and stuff like that. Usually x-rays can be done every other year. Oral hygiene is super important to your health. I don’t really understand the fear behind going to the dentist other than that people don’t like their gums being prodded and the noise. If you get super anxious going to the dentist, talk to your PCP about getting something to help with anxiety. You should still go! Gum disease, tooth disease, over crowding of your teeth, bad breath, all sorts of things can get sorted out here. Besides, clean teeth are amazing. Dentists are also aware of any notable changes in your oral cavity and can refer you to your PCP if they find something suspicious. Keep your teeth as long as you can! Another lovely thing I see on that ER list is tooth pain. Unlike a dentist, ER doctors are not as skillfully equipped to deal with your rotting tooth. They will likely refer you to a dentist or an oral surgeon. Now you just wasted $1500 for something I am telling you for free. Go to your dentist with any dental problems.
Optometrist/Ophthalmologist: Eye doctors. You need to see this guy once a year. Without insurance you will likely pay $100-200 a visit. Did you know these guys diagnose diabetes in patients sometimes before the PCP? Vision is super important so why stick your head in the sand about it? I don’t like the puff in the eyes and I don’t like paying a crap ton for glasses but I need to be able to see! Go get your eyes checked.
Gynecologist: Once a year. No insurance visit will likely run about $150. Ladies, this is important but does not replace your PCP. Your reproductive health is necessary to take care of. Ovarian, cervical, uterine, and breast cancer are not a joke and one of those is a silent killer (ovarian). Polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, and a slew of others are also very unfun. Don’t skip this. This is also who you call when you have vaginal discharge. Honey, that didn’t start at midnight. You have had that funk for a few days. Call your gynecologist.
Guys, sorry, I don’t know much about dude doctors. Not to say male reproductive health is not equally important. It is. But your genitals are on the outside. It is easier to spot when something is really off really quickly. If it isn’t an emergency, i.e. intense pain, bleeding, or some sort of abnormal swelling, call your PCP and get it checked out. Trauma is an ER visit. Make that a routine thing to talk about with your PCP. I know it is uncomfortable, but testicular cancer is worse, I promise.
This is one of the building blocks to a healthy lifestyle. Doctors are able to make much more personalized plans for you if they know you and have a report with you. If you don’t like your current provider, find another! You can get copies of your health records and take them with you. This will help you save money as there will be less trips to the ER and less time off of work if your doctor can provide you with the appropriate care on the first go around. Set the baselines, open the dialogue, and work together towards healthy lifestyle.
The second pillar is eating healthy. I am not saying eat green, be a vegetarian, go paleo, or whatever the latest craze is. What I am saying is try to eat along the outside of the grocery store more often than not. What does that mean? If you look at the layout of grocery stores you will notice the whole foods are along the outside of the wall. Fresh meats, veggies, and fruits are along the outside. You want those to be your main staples for your diet.
But, but, but, this is expensive! The expense comes when you throw out food you don’t eat. If you eat it, it isn’t wasted. Yes, it can still be more costly than buying the boxed foods in the center aisles, and those are not completely cut off for you. Just think of it as an 80/20 or 70/30 type of lifestyle. Seventy percent should come from the outside of the grocery store and the other thirty comes from the aisles. You can also save additional money by stocking up on frozen fruit and veggies. You have to be savvy. Meal plan, budget effectively, and stick to it. It gets easier with time and practice.
The third pillar is to be active. I don’t advocate running on the treadmill for hours at a time. Find something active that you enjoy doing. I love to pole dance and biking. My husband loves Cross-fit and martial arts. Whatever it is, it should be something you enjoy doing. Why is that so important? If you don’t enjoy it, love it, get ramped up about it, it will turn into another chore. Yes, there will be days when you simply can’t or don’t want to. That is fine. You will get the desire back. If not for what you were doing then for something else. Find something and get pumped.
The last pillar. Get your home in order. Take a minute. This is the hardest pillar to stack correctly, but it is essential. Finances, debt, is your biggest enemy. This is hard when our society embraces debt like a lover. You have to get that in order. I will be posting some budget challenges soon, but if you need additional guidance pick up Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover or his Financial Peace. Get your home clean. This is impossible with children, but if you have a plan to get things done that is better than nothing. Get your schedule organized. You can’t keep appointments if you rely on text messages reminding you that you have one. There are thousands of posts out there about how to organize, clean, and shape up your home. Take the time to put it in order and watch your stress level drop.
I do have one last pillar. This is a bonus pillar. Find a career that you love. This is also a hard pillar. Part of building a healthy life is that it should be a life you don’t need a vacation from. The number one thing that people run away from is their job. I 100% understand that you need to pay off your debt and bills. Get that done. Don’t wait. Do the things you hate if you have to get there (no don’t really). When the focus is no longer on making the ends meet, you can focus on building that very life you want, including your career. Take the time while you dig yourself out of your hole to think about what you want to do. Then plan your steps to get you there.
I don’t have any fast and hard rules to transform your life into a healthy one. As a medical provider these are the general guidelines to get there. There are lots of resources for you to explore on your own. I have done a post on meal planning. Like I said I will be posting budget challenges based off of the Total Money Makeover. I will journey with you as far as you want to go!