If you’ve sat in an urgent care waiting room lately, you’ve probably noticed two distinct types of worry on patients’ faces: what’s my diagnosis and how much will it cost me? Flip on the news any day of the week and you’ll hear politicians arguing about health care reform. However, these noisy debates depersonalize the subject and draw our attention away from worries of people who simply want to feel better and be treated with respect. Access to decent medical care is a very personal and emotional quest, especially as we get older and are faced with more financially challenging diagnoses.
Staying healthy means more than just finding quick fixes to mask symptoms. While yearly medical exams help diagnose serious problems in their early stages, you should strive to stay as far away from the examination table as possible between those checkups. To start with, daily exercise can save you a ton of money. Some people are convinced that they need a fancy gym membership and a costly personal trainer to get in shape. But with a little self-discipline and a little support from your loved ones, you can probably cut a few financial corners and still get results. If your body is healthier, it will be less likely to land you in the doctor’s office, pulling out your wallet for copays and prescriptions. You’ll also be less likely to use up all your sick days at work, setting you up for increased performance and chance of a raise.
But as you walk through the grocery store aisles with the best of intentions, you might become turned off by the high prices on foods marketed as healthy, all-natural, and organic. Chips and soda are priced cheaply because they’re mass-manufactured in unsustainable factories with artificial ingredients. Those artificial ingredients take a serious toll on your waistline, your teeth, and your energy levels, sending you back to that dreaded examination table in no time at all. It’s common knowledge that fast food is bad for you but it also becomes expensive over time, causing you to waste your money on lower nutrition and unhealthy cooking methods.
Fresh leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, collards, chard, and kale are some of the most nutritious and least expensive items in the market. You can pick up some natural beans, grains, and herbs for next to nothing and build a cheap, creative, and flavorful dinner. Meat products are usually the most expensive items on your list, but you don’t necessarily have to become a vegetarian to save money. Try cutting back on meat a couple times week and replacing it with beans, lentils, and eggs to get the protein your body needs.
When it comes to supplements, make sure you are buying the real thing. It’s a good sign if the company selling the product is also the one making it from their own raw materials. Supplements can be a great way to expand your nutritional intake and keep you healthy.