The Cost of Health

Recently, a patient commented to me that “supplements are so expensive.”  What struck me as peculiar about the statement was how ill the patient was prior to coming into our office and how much money he was probably spending on disease management for the his array of chronic illnesses.  I know that he wants to be healthy.  We all do, but I guess I found the objection to having to pay for health as a strange one considering he had certainly paid enough for his diseases.

I would figure that between his hypertension and diabetes along with his osteoarthritis and obesity, he had spent thousands of dollars just in deductibles and co-pays managing the symptoms of his various ailments.  Further, he’d probably spent countless hours dedicated to checking his blood pressure and sugars as well as doctor’s visits and working with other healthcare providers.  Yet, “supplements are so expensive” and exercise was an anathema.  I wish this patient was unique but, to be honest, I’ve worked with too many patients with the exact same perceptions about disease and health over the years.

It turns out that the reason this particular patient felt that the supplements were “expensive” was because he really had never taken them during is life, at least not in any meaningful way.  He also had invested very little time or money in regular exercise throughout his lifetime, never having belonged to a gym or making time for regular exercise.  When he got sick, he went to his doctor, like many people do, and, instead of being given solutions to improve his health, he was given an expensive pill that his insurance paid the lion’s share of and told to just live with the chronic illness.  In a nutshell, this patient reminded me of the cost of health versus being sick.

The simplest way to put the cost of your health in perspective is the true statement that being sick is a lot more expensive than being healthy.  I would argue, based on dealing with the public for over 15 years, that the list of reasons for neglecting your health is a long one.  Number one on that list, based on my experience, seems to be a fear of losing.  Ironically however, it’s not a fear losing their health.  I would even gather that many people mistakenly assume that losing health is an inevitability.

It seems to me, based on patient interactions over the years, there two common mitigating factors that patients fear to lose when relating to health:  Money and Time.  I’ve noticed that your ability to better manage these factors can have a direct substantial positive impact on your health.  While many claim to have a shortage of both, my personal experience as a healthcare provider has been that both are more a matter of confused priorities.  For many, health is just not as important as other commitments in their life.

You have to realize that health is an investment.  Just like investing money will produce a future financial return, so too will investing in your health more than likely pay dividends in the end.  If you are slow and deliberate, taking your time but remaining consistent, your wise health investment will most likely pay off in higher quality and prolonged life as you age.  If, however, you choose to largely ignore your investment, never donating the time or money that it takes to be well, then you can’t be surprised when you get little return on your health as you get older.

Many think that health is beyond their reach because it may be too expensive, but is that a matter of money or perception?  Have you set of a barrier of false beliefs regarding the cost of health that is preventing you from being well?  Do you live under the myth that being well is only for the rich?  Too often I see the patient who claims they can’t afford the costs of health but can afford a brand new car, fresh landscaping, or expensive meals eating out.  In that case, money isn’t the issue.  Priorities are.

Our ability to commit to ourselves has also been affected by our expectations from society.  Today we live in a culture that has been trained to rely on insurance to cover every health related eventuality and keep us well.  We forget, however, that insurance is just that: insurance meant to cover the unpredictable expense of disease.  As such, insurance doesn’t cover expenses related to prevention such as nutrition, exercise, and preventative chiropractic adjusting.  Insurance will cover what it takes to become healthy if you get sick, not prevention.  “But they cover annual physicals and blood work” you say?  There is nothing preventative about an annual physical or blood work.  These tests are actually a form of early detection, not prevention.  As such, your insurance will cover tests meant to detect disease but if you are looking to stay healthy and prevent disease, you will have to pay for that on your own.  So, it’s not a matter of “supplements are so expensive.”  It’s a matter of you having to get used to paying out of your own pocket for prevention and investing time and money on your own to stay well.

Lifelong health is within your reach if you are willing to change your preconceived notions about what it takes to be healthy.  You don’t have to join a fancy gym to exercise.  Try exercising at home.  Milk containers can substitute for weights (a gallon of water weighs 8 pounds) and walking is free.  Often, people also don’t realize that fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats are cheaper than meals eating out or the packaged non-foods we so readily consume on a nearly daily basis.  Changing your diet and increasing your exercise will also help your body respond and adapt better to stress.  Further, supplementing your diet now with a good quality whole food supplement is a lot less exensive than treating the symptoms of a disease once you become ill.  Regular chiropractic adjusting for prevention and maintenance of health is also generally very affordable and within the budget of many people.  In fact, people are turning to chiropractors more and more for many non-back pain related health issues because of its effectiveness and low cost in maintaining health.

Additionally, you can’t confuse disease management with health.  We are literally bombarded regularly by advertising for all sorts of treatments and drugs which are sold to us as “health.”  Most, though, are really just symptom management and come with a hefty financial price tag.  While complex testing, medications, and doctor’s visits can be fairly expensive, the generally healthy person does not require these often.  Staying healthy is much cheaper than becoming sick.

The second perceived lack that prevents a person from being well is time but, to put it simply, it’s never a matter of time.  It’s a mater of priorities.  Have you ever wondered how a certain person “finds the time” to exercise or is able to regularly cook healthy meals.  The truth is that we all have 24 hours in a day.  Sure, you have kids, and work, and stuff.  We all do.  The difference between the healthy person and the ill person is not that they necessarily have more time.  It’s that exercise and planning for a healthy lifestyle is more of a priority for them.

For the health conscious, catching up on the latest television episode, sleeping in, or putting in extra time at work just isn’t as important as healthy habits.  As a result, they make the time.  Having kids is not an excuse either.  Kids have to sleep sometime and adults require far less sleep than children do.  A viable option is to either exercise before they wake up or actually make them exercise with you.  Who knows, maybe you’ll pass your good habits on to them so that they’ll be healthier adults.

Time is a linear factor.  All of us are subject to its daily limitations on our physiology.  Are you mastering your time or is time mastering you?  One activity I have my patients in the office do, and I suggest you try it, is sit down and write down all of the tasks you do during the day.  Almost without exception, people have more than enough time to exercise in the day.  Too often, people are very surprised at how much down-time they have and time they really waste during the day where they could be more productive.  If all that time were set end to end , there would be plenty of time and then some for better health choices.

“But I’m so tired.  I’m just so busy all the time and don’t have the energy,” you may say.  Perhaps it hasn’t occurred to you that improving your lifestyle may actually increase your energy levels.  Not only will a better planned day reduce your stress, but you’ll be sure to set time aside for assuring your wellbeing.  Further, improved health will remove illness as a distraction and may even help you get things done more effectively during the day.

So, is your reason for not being healthy as out of your control as you perceive?  Or, more likely, have you set up excuses that prevent you from growing and fulfilling your health potential.  No matter the reason, there is a solution for the self imposed limitations that we hide behind.  When all is considered, you must keep the end in mind.  Ultimately, you’ll need to put some skin in the game to achieve and maintain your own health.  Investing a little now in your health will, most like, pay large health dividends in the end because in the long run, the cost of health is a lot cheaper than the price of disease.

Are You Even Willing To Be Healthy?

The great motivational speaker Les Brown once said “The hardest part is getting the person to be an active participant in their own recovery.”  As a healthcare provider, I’m faced with this dogging anathema regularly.  People want health, but are unwilling to do the work and invest in themselves enough to obtain and maintain it.

Participating in our local community is very important to me and our chiropractic office regularly attends dozens of community events every year, from health fairs to senior expos.  Consistently, a regular occurrence during these events are those looking for solutions to the near limitless potential problems that ail the average individual.   I probably speak, at least briefly, with thousands of separate individuals at each of the multitude of venues we associate with annually.  Of issue, is how few of those people are actually willing to pursue any form of solution to their problem.

Recently, we attended a wellness expo for the local school district.  We performed nearly 60 screenings in a single morning, evaluating the attendees for muscular and postural issues.  Most of the people I consulted with during the screening were suffering from various conditions, often for years.  Most had also “learned to live with it.”  What always continues to surprise me about these events is that a person can list a litany of ailments but how very few will actually take any further action to correct them, even when a solution is presented to them.  Often, I can offer my confidence that we may have the potential solution they’re looking for to significantly improve or even resolve their issue, yet the person will refuse any additional commitment to being health.  My observation is that they are more content in their illness than in the potential to be well.

This is a phenomenon I have seen in broad ranges of patients in all avenues of care.  From the person who won’t commit to beginning care to the person who does not follow through with their treatment to completion, there seems to be a generalized non-committal attitude toward being well.  I think that even if I could promise a free guaranteed 100% cure, many people would still turn it down.  Now, I don’t promise cure and nothing is guaranteed, but you get the point.  Many people are unwilling to invest in their own recovery.  Why?  The answer is fear.

I once heard someone say that F.E.A.R is False Evidence Appearing Real.  Fear holds people back.  It keeps the greatness of individuals trapped inside them so they never realize their full potential.  The same is true of health.  You have an amazing healing potential.  The question that should be asked is fear preventing you from living up to your full health ability?  Is fear limiting your willingness to try alternative treatment options?  Is fear stealing your hope?

Fear with regard to health manifests itself in many ways.   Fear is a pernicious multifaceted beast that prevents many from realizing wellness.  Do any of these describe you?

1.        Fear of commitment – Health will never be handed to you on a silver platter.  Health is something you must commit to.   Health isn’t a matter of happenstance or occurrence by chance of fate.  Being healthy is a matter of deliberate intention.  Being healthy requires a time investment.  You have to invest in time to exercise, time to pick the right foods, time to take care of your spine, and time to manage your stress.  The excuse that “I’m to busy” is just that…an excuse.  You have to have health as a priority.

Committing to a lifestyle change that includes healthy choices forces you out of your comfort zone.  Albert Einstein said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”   Too often, unfortunately, a person will wait indefinitely to magically get well.  As the old saying goes, “If your ship doesn’t come in, you may have to row out and meet it.”  If you’ve been waiting indefinitely to get better, you’ll ultimately have to come to the realization that change may be your only solution.  Change can be uncomfortable but, in my experience, more often change can be extremely fulfilling.  Let go of your unrealized fear and make a commitment now to change.

2.        Fear of trying something new – If the solutions you’ve always done aren’t working for you, why are you still doing them.  It always fascinates me when I talk to a patient who has had back pain for years and has been doing the same interventions they have always tried but they don’t get any better, at least not in any meaningful way.  Again, change can be uncomfortable but fear may be preventing you from growing and improving for lack of trying.  William Shakespeare has said “Our doubts make us traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.”  Maybe the solution you need is out there.  You just haven’t found it because fear has prevented you from even trying anything outside your self imposed comfort zone.  What solutions have you eliminated, not because they didn’t work, but because you were too afraid to try them in the first place?

3.       Fear of financial expenditure – Of course, in our current economy, this can be a very real fear.  Many people are afraid to commit to being healthy because they feel it may be a bad investment.  They’re afraid of sending for their health but not getting a likewise return.  Well, let me tell you, being sick is a lot more expensive than being healthy.  You have to look at your health as an investment for your future.  A little time and money invested now may save a literal fortune later.

I understand that money can be a touchy subject for a lot of people but, like a time commitment, my experience has shown me that money is truly less of a mitigating factor than priorities.  Frequently, we’ll see patients in our office who, once they calculate an estimated cost of their care plan, claim poverty and will completely discontinue care for financial reasons.  Too often however, I’ve found that these same people drive a $50,000 Mercedes, have a personal trainer or a cleaning lady, or even recently remodeled their house.  For them, health is just not a priority.  Their luxury lifestyle is more important and it may eventually cost hem their health.  Do you have your priorities straight?

4.       Fear of hope – One of the things I am seeing more and more often at some of the events we work, and with many new patients who present to our office, is a loss of hope.  Many have been told they are destined to live with pain or disease for the rest of their life.  Many have been told that they are fated for illness or that sickness is inevitable for them.  In my opinion, there is no greater disservice done to a person than to steal that person’s hope.

There is always hope for any condition or disease.  I don’t think there is a condition out there that doesn’t have a documented case of a miraculous recovery.  Too frequently, I’ve seen people with reversible conditions completely give up on the ability to be well because someone foolishly told them it can’t be done.  Just because someone says it can’t be done doesn’t make it true.  Obviously, there are no guarantees in life and you shouldn’t expect or believe absolutes but that doesn’t mean you should give up.  It’s heartbreaking for me to talk to a person who has a condition that we can most likely help, only to have them never commit to wellness because they’ve had their hope stolen from them.  Don’t give up!  Become the inspired healthy individual you were meant to be!

Ask yourself, are you even willing to get well?  Are you willing to commit to you?  My experience has shown me that, more often than not, the answer is no.  That’s why only about 8% of the population will ever see a chiropractor.  That’s why less than 25% of people have a regular exercise regimen.  It’s why so few people take vitamins.  It’s why fast food is a multibillion dollar industry.  It’s why prescription drug sales are on the rise yet, according to the World Health Organization, we’re 37th as a nation in general health.  Unfortunately, my experience is that people expect health but reject commitment but you can’t have one without the other.

No one will ever care more about you than you.  To that end, no one can force you to be well.  Being healthy is a choice.  What you have to decide is whether you can move past your fear and commit to being the amazing, inspiring, and unstoppable individual you were built to be.