The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

July 25, 2012

Steps to stay healthy and lower your medical costs

By Christina Adams, MD for the SNAP

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 — When spending less becomes a necessity, there are some things one shouldn’t cut from the budget. Health care is one of them.

Cutting corners on your medical care might actually cost more in the long run.

More importantly, it may put your health in jeopardy.

Still, as deductibles and co-pays rise and many people find themselves without health insurance, lowering out-of-pocket medical expenses may become a priority.

These steps can help you stay healthy and lower your medical costs.

Practice good health habits. Make smart choices such as these:

• Wash your hands often.

• Eat well – more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and fewer foods and drinks that are high in calories, sugar, salt or fat.

• Get rest and regular exercise.

• Manage stress.

• Don't smoke and avoid secondhand smoke.

• Wear seat belts in vehicles and helmets on bikes.

Have a primary care physician. Seeing a doctor periodically can help one stay well.

One can keep your immunizations up-to-date, which may help avoid illnesses such as influenza and shingles.

Your doctor may suggest screening tests.

These tests may catch health problems early, when they might be easier – and possibly less expensive – to treat.

Know when to seek help. According to the American College of Physicians, many minor medical problems, such as a cold, correct themselves or improve in a matter of days.

However, if one doesn’t get better or if one’s not sure whether they need help, do seek professional advice. Always get immediate help for a medical emergency.

Ask about generic medications. Generic drugs cost less but have the same purity, strength and quality as their brand-name counterparts, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Assistance programs may be available if one can’t afford their medications. Ask your pharmacist or physician for details.

Whatever one does, don’t decide on your own to stop taking your medicine.

If you’re worried about the cost – or any other aspect of your care – talk to your doctor.