Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Be Thrifty and Stay Healthy

“Trim expenses or trim your waistline? It's tempting to cut where it's easiest -- by skipping that blood-pressure medicine that costs $200 a month, or that $40 monthly gym membership. Or switching from fish and skinless chicken breast to cheaper meats such as ground beef and hot dogs. But be careful, say experts, because efforts to cut expenses by cutting back on health care or exercise can sometimes ricochet back and hurt you in the long run. Already, doctors' offices are starting to see a wave of patients who have delayed seeing a doctor and are now suffering the consequences. "People are coming in sicker, so we're seeing an increase in more serious illnesses. What may have been bronchitis has progressed to pneumonia, for example," said Dr. Scott Brady, chief executive officer of CentraCare, Florida Hospital's network of urgent-care centers. Now, he says, those people risk missing more work days to recover -- and may have to take more-expensive medication. To take care of your body and your budget, consider some simple steps that may keep you out of the doctor's office while saving you money as well. And don't forget to exercise, which can counteract some of the negative side effects of stress. Like sleep, exercise doesn't have to cost a dime. If you want to join a health club, however, shop around and negotiate. Right now, health-club owners are offering discounts -- beyond the standard New Year's resolution specials -- to attract new members and retain old ones. For consumers, that's good news. ‘It never hurts to ask what they can set you up with,’ said Rosemary Lavery of the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. If you're already a member, you might be able to renegotiate your membership fee. If you don't want to pay a monthly fee, there are plenty of exercise opportunities in the community. Try running, walking or biking on one of Central Florida's many fitness trails, said Dr. Susan Hewlings, assistant professor of medical education for the University of Central Florida's College of Medicine. ‘The best thing people can do is find something they enjoy. You want exercise to be your escape, so you have to make it fun.’”


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