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Three trillion dollars are spent every year on health care in the United States. Fortunately, saving time, money and hassle as it relates to health care can be accomplished any patient who’s willing to be proactive about managing their wellbeing. All individuals, regardless of health status, should consider the following tips to ensure a healthy present and future:
1. Know the Numbers: Becoming familiar with blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and Body Mass Index (BMI) is crucial for maintaining a clean bill of health. Not only does it help identify what may need more attention, it governs the risk for chronic conditions, including: diabetes, obesity, hypertension and heart disease. The American Heart Association has a variety of online tools to help track critical health numbers, including blood sugar and blood pressure.
2. Learn the Family’s History: The risk for chronic conditions and illness varies based on age, race, genetics, health history and lifestyle, among other factors. While some of these influences are modifiable, others are not within a person’s control. All individuals should make the time to learn more about their family health history, starting with immediate family (parents and siblings) and later branching out to grandparents and cousins, etc. The U.S. National Library of Medicine suggests identifying present medical conditions in the family, causes of death, age(s) of disease onset or death as well as ethnic background. Informing a primary care doctor of any findings can better prepare him/her to detect disease and establish a care plan.
3. Take Preventive Action: Timely preventive care leads to less expensive medical treatment and lowers the risk for serious and sometimes life-threatening illnesses. Reports show that chronic disease and early death are often linked to lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use, and other modifiable risk factors. Practicing healthy behaviors, whether it’s 30 minutes of exercise or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, saves time and money that might otherwise go toward health care costs.
4. Collaborate with a Care Team: Another important means of prevention is creating an open line of communication with a family doctor. Annual checkups should be prioritized, as they involve important tests and screenings that cater to each person’s specific health needs. Believe it or not, those who have full access to their primary care physician have a higher likelihood of receiving the care they need in the appropriate setting, and are less likely to visit the emergency room for non-emergency conditions. The Blue Cross mobile app can be a helpful in quickly finding doctors and hospitals nearby, or check deductibles and claims – all with easy-to-follow instructions. Families, friends and loved ones are also great networks to tap for support, advice and motivation on the journey to living healthy.
5. Set Health Goals: One of the best ways to maintain accountability is to establish a strong set of health goals. According to Forbes, establishing clear, compelling goals musters focus toward actionable behavior. Start with simple tasks that are realistic and can easily integrate into everyday life. For example, drinking 16 more ounces of water than last week, or committing to a 10-minute walk every few hours throughout the workday. Overtime, small changes can lead to a healthier, more balanced lifestyle.
6. Stay on Track: No matter what an individual’s health goals look like, it’s important to make note of progress and hardships. With any lifestyle change, make a habit of logging daily struggles, symptoms and results. Beyond that, be proactive about tracking medical records and expenses. While doctors maintain health records, these documents should also be available to a person at home, whether stored digitally or within a paper file. Consider including the following information/documents: current health information, medical history, recent insurance claims/payments and a copy of an advance directive or living will and power of attorney.
About the author: Dr. George S. Kipa is deputy chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The Blue Cross Patient-Centered Medical Home program is the largest of its kind in the country and improves the quality of care and preventive care that helps patients avoid emergency room visits and hospital stays. To learn more, visit: valuepartnerships.com.
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