Thursday, 26 May 2011

Managing Financial Effects of Health in Retirement: 2) Narrowing Your Own Chances of Problems

The figures in the previous post on health problems that could happen and their likelihood are averages for the population. Everybody's individual chances will be different partly based on genetics – ask yourself how many in your family have had the various ailments – and partly based on your lifestyle actions. You can tilt the odds in your own favour. The same kinds of factors that the life expectancy calculators use to estimate your lifespan will greatly influence your health while alive.
  1. Diet – Eat fruits and vegetables. Eat foods with Omega-3 Fatty Acids (helps avoid Alzheimer's apparently). Eat fish and shellfish. Limit salt, caffeine (over 3 cups of coffee per day starts to do damage), high cholesterol and fatty foods. Drink some alcohol – 1 to 2 drinks per day – but taking more is to your detriment. Warning sign - being overweight, or even worse, obese with a Body Mass Index over 30. Oh, and remember to floss as it might keep a heart attack away, according to the lifespan calculator.

  2. Smoking – It's bad, there is no dividing line or upside. Smoking raises chances of cancer and stroke.

  3. Friends and Family – Having regular social contacts, loving and being loved, obviously will improve emotional satisfaction with life but there is a spillover into physical health too. Keeping a pet dog or cat falls into this category as well.

  4. Exercise – Nature-walking, mall-walking, golf, curling, tennis, treadmill, skiing, ballroom dancing, weights and, why not, sex. Take your pick, anything that requires muscle use, gets you moving, breathing a bit hard and the heart rate up helps bring about healthy life.

  5. Brain Activity – Your brain is like your muscles. It needs regular workouts to stay in shape. Keeping your mind active can delay or avoid the onset of dementia. Reading books, blogs, magazines and better, trying to figure something out or learn something about whatever is of interest to you, will benefit your brain. Doing some sort of work, paid or volunteer, where there is responsibility and a sense of achievement, however small in the grand scheme of things, does wonders for the mind. It can also be a good social activity. On-going brain exercise may be a reason people with higher levels of education have lower incidence of dementia.

You can reduce health risks but the fact remains that you cannot eliminate them.

The next post in this series will look at the range of financial consequences of the various types of health problems, i.e. if you get cancer, have a stroke, or get Alzheimer's, what will it cost?

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