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July 2011 / Bronx/​Riverdale Family / Brooklyn Family / Long Island Family / Queens Family / Staten Island Family

Embody health and wealth

The aphorism “the greatest wealth is health” has never been more true than now, because healthcare costs a fortune! We could all be richer if getting sick wasn’t so expensive. Each aspect of treating an illness — the doctor visits, lab work, tests, medication, hospital stays, and missing days of work — all have an effect on the patient’s recovery — especially his financial recovery.

Drug companies, insurers, doctors, hospitals, politicians, and the economy have all contributed to the higher cost of health care. Since 2007, more than half of filers for bankruptcy claimed high medical expenses as a major contributor to their financial disasters, and there are more uninsured and under-insured people than ever before. Fortunately, families are gaining some ground in the war against the high cost of healthcare. They are taking a proactive stand against illness by adopting healthier lifestyles. They are finding ways to embody health and wealth.

People everywhere are trimming the fat from their healthcare expenses and saving money by taking better care of themselves and minimizing their risks of becoming sick, including 80-year-old Sophie, who changed her health regimen after being put on insulin injections when she was diagnosed with diabetes in 2009.

“Who needs a life of needles and popping pills, waiting for the next thing to get you? That stuff is for the birds,” says the New Yorker.

Sick of being sick, Sophie decided to take the injections and other medications while changing her condition through diet and exercise. She restricted her diet to meat, fruits and vegetables, and began working out at the gym a few times a week with a personal trainer. It took some time, but she is now off the medication. She chose to take control of her health. Needless to say, Sophie has a young attitude and does not look her age.

Elementary schools are now teaching students to sneeze and cough into their elbows instead of their palms in order to prevent the spread of germs. In addition, more hand sanitizers and tissues are being distributed by both schools and offices, since the common cold can cost an average family with insurance about $100 — just tally the doctor co-pay, price of medicine, and lost wages for missing a day of work or paying a sitter. Without that insurance, the common cold would cost even more.

It’s well known that maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do to keep yourself well. But a study released by “The Early Show” in 2010 shows that a person’s weight can also affect how much money he or she makes. The study showed that women who weighed 25 pounds less than the group average earned about $16,000 more per year. A woman 25 pounds above the average earned about $14,000 less. On the other hand, thinner men made almost $9,000 less than their average male co-worker.

“You can never be too thin or too rich,” says Erica, a lawyer in Queens who said she was promoted to partner after she dropped more than 10 pounds and dyed her hair blonde.

Take the first step

Walking the extra mile can help you keep your shape and stave off illness. Since there are 2,000 steps in a mile, theoretically, a person would have to walk five miles a day to burn off a pound. But of course, this doesn’t seem fair to those of us who are hungrier after exercise. So try squeezing small walking sessions into your daily routine. Avoid using the phone to call a co-worker, and instead, walk to her desk. Or, take the long way to the water cooler and use the stairs instead of the elevator. It will be an adjustment at first, but you’ll get used to it.

“At first, I felt a little weird, but I was motivated, so I got used to it — especially since I canceled my gym membership and needed to keep moving” says Helen, a secretary in Brooklyn who has been known to sprint around her office to burn calories. “I have been losing weight by watching what I eat and walking around more at work.”

She’s also added hand weights to her office walks and is enjoying the compliments she gets while she is “circulating” at work and improving her health.

If your work day doesn’t lend itself to walking five miles around the office, squeeze in as many steps as possible, and bend and stretch before and after work. It really does help!

If possible, walk or cycle at least part of the way to work, or do so during your weekend errands. Park the car a little farther away — it could be cheaper, or free. Window shopping at lunchtime can stimulate the eyes and heart rate — while saving money.

The importance of water

All this talk about new, healthy habits can drive one to drink — water, that is. Staying hydrated is an excellent way to stave off hunger and improve health. Water flushes toxins and fat out of the body. Whenever possible, keep Bisphenol A-free bottles filled with water on hand.

“The water comes in handy in this sweltering heat,” says Patricia, who makes it a habit to drink water throughout the day. “But, you have to map out a few restrooms along the way, just in case.”

She fills up her water bottle for the rush hour commute to her home in the Bronx. Her strategy prevents thirst and helps her to not spend money on expensive coffee drinks.

It takes 21 days to build a habit, good or bad. The way to live a healthier — and wealthier — lifestyle is by making small, healthy changes today. There are lots of free websites that can help you get started. Make healthy changes and keep the change in your wallet, where it belongs.

Candi Sparks is the author of “Can I Have Some Money?” a children’s book series sold on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She lives in Brooklyn and is a mother of two. She is on Facebook (Candi Sparks, author) and Twitter (Candi Sparks, author). Visit her website, www.candisparks.com.

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