“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Franklin
Nearly four centuries later, Franklin’s sagacious advice still resonates having been eternalized as an idiom in the medical field. Perhaps his quote is why his portrait is printed on the obverse of the $100 bill colloquially known as a “Benjamin” or “C-Note” — which folks can save in droves in healthcare expenses if they enact measures to uphold their health and screen for conditions that are treatable, if intercepted early.
According to computer modeling performed by the Employee Benefit Research Institute in 2008, retirees at age 65 could expect to incur between $64,000 and $159,000 in healthcare retirement costs which include premiums and out-of-pocket expenses (1). When adjusted for inflation, this would amount to $80,000 to $200,000 in 2021 dollars. Johns Hopkins University has prominently noted that 75% of US healthcare expenditures emanate from chronic conditions which are largely preventable.
Routine medical screenings ranging from rudimentary biometric measurements through cancer screenings are recommended for men and women within different age brackets. Typically, screening cadence, or frequency increases throughout the lifespan or if there’s a genetic predisposal to cancer or heart disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in conjunction with the US Preventive Services Task Force recommends:
- Regular checkups that measure weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels to detect cardiovascular and metabolic disease.
- Pap tests every three to five years for women aged 21 to 65 or an alternative screening to check for cervical cancer.
- Mammograms every two years beginning at age 50 to check for breast cancer.
- Colorectal cancer screenings beginning at age 50 to check for colorectal cancer.
Additionally, adopting healthy behaviors related to physical activity and nutrition and can help compress healthcare spend in retirement by significantly reducing morbidity risk.
Around age 40 endogenous hormone production diminishes resulting in decrements of metabolic and musculoskeletal health. Fortunately, age associated declines in hormone production which lead to reduced bone mineral density and skeletal muscle loss can be staved off by regular physical activity and sound nutrition.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and CDC recommend that all healthy adults aged 18–65 engage in moderate intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes five days per week, accumulating 150 weekly minutes, or vigorous intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 minutes three days per week, totaling 60 weekly minutes.
- Moderate intensity aerobic physical activity comprises activities such as walking, biking, playing with children or pets, and aquatic exercise.
- Vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity comprises activities such as running, climbing stairs, uphill walking, most competitive and recreational sports, and swimming laps.
Without heart rate monitors and knowing target heart rate zones, one can easily discern between the two intensity levels. During moderately intense physical activity, you should be able to engage in conversation whereas labored breathing during vigorously intense physical activity will impede your ability to maintain conversation.
Additionally, the ACSM and CDC recommend the inclusion of activities aimed at maintaining or increasing muscular strength and endurance, performed at a minimum of two days per week (2).
Nutrition is a bit more nuanced and should account for a constellation of factors including comorbidities, disease risk, lifestyle, and budget. Ideally, your nutritional intake should improve your quality of life and support your activity level, helping you optimally recover from exercise.
In summary, by engaging in preventive measures you’ll be expending an ounce of effort rather than buckling under a pound of physical discomfort and financial strain. Begin paving the path to improved health today by scheduling recommended screenings and incorporating physical activity and healthy nutrition.
Fronstin, P., Salisbury, D., & VanDerhei, J. (2008). Savings needed to fund health insurance and health care expenses in retirement: findings from a simulation model. EBRI Issue Brief, (317): 1-2, 4-27.
Piercy, K. L., Troiano, R. P., Ballard, R. M., Carlson, S. A., Fulton, J. E., Galuska, D. A., George, S. M., & Olson, R. D. (2018). The physical activity guidelines for Americans. JAMA, 320(19), 2020–2028