Thursday, October 25, 2007

Retirement Planning and Your Health

Retirement Planning and Your Health

Few of us factor in the cost of our health on our retirement. We live with great gusto when we are young, never thinking of the possible implications those risky behaviors can have later in life.

We often discuss risk in financial terms but that discussion is often focused on the risk of an investment. But risk can be controlled in the world of investing just as it can be controlled when it comes to your health. Opting for less risky investments however can lead to smaller returns on that investment dollar. The opposite is true for your health.

When it comes to your health, this one area that requires you to review how much risk you have taken and what that risk will affect. Health risks demand conservative investing.

Those risky behaviors can have daunting costs later in life that can serve to undermine the best-laid plans. While incidents of cancer actually decreasing somewhat and most of the credit for that is due to earlier detection, it still remains a menace that is, in many cases preventable.

At Harvard University’s Cancer Prevention Center, they list ten controllable risks and habits, each of which has additional side benefits across your entire health picture.

Those risk factors are:
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
    National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases

    Weight-control Information Network
    A one-stop-shop for information on weight control, this site covers a huge range of topics.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    Getting Started

    This site offers practical strategies for becoming and staying active.

    Tufts University
    Nutrition Navigator

    An informative site that rates the quality of individual nutrition Web sites based on their accuracy and usability.

    Energize Yourself! Stay Physically Active

    Being active can boost your mood and give you more energy.

    Harvard School of Public Health, Department of Nutrition
    The Nutrition Source

    An informative site covering a wide range of nutrition topics, including weight control.

    Weight Management

    A comprehensive site that offers everything from the basics on weight management to specific action plans for healthy eating and physical activity

Physical Activity

There is growing proof that physical exercise can prolong your life and ultimately lower your risk for disease. Remember, it isn’t too late to start and when you do, do so regularly. But if you haven’t done much more than remote control calisthenics, it would probably be best to talk with you doctor prior to getting started.

Tobacco Use

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death worldwide. Aside from causing 90 percent of all lung cancer, cigarette use is related to the risk of cancers of the bladder, kidney, pancreas, lip, mouth, tongue, larynx, throat, and esophagus, among other chronic diseases.

Although the X Pack is primarily designed for those who have begun smoking at an early age, the product, the brainchild of Dr. Lorien Abroms, who won the Gareth Green Award for Public Health Practice is suitable for any age group.

Additional links:

Diet, Multivitamins, Alcohol Use The HCCP is quick to point out that just because you may have received numerous and often conflicting reports about what you should and should not eat, that you should not be discouraged. The science behind diet is evolving but one thing can be said for certain, fruits and vegetables, less meat and generally avoiding unnecessary fats will help you reduce your risks for many health problems. Alcohol should be drunk in moderation if at all. Once again the science is still finding its footing on this subject but most studies agree, too much of anything is bad for your delicate system.

Additional resources

Sun Exposure The science on this category is pretty straightforward. Sunlight is not a good thing for most of us and for those of us who think we can tan, it can be deceivingly bad. The proportion of major cancers due to sunlight is startling: Melanoma (over 90%) ,Basal cell carcinoma (over 90%), and
Squamous cell carcinoma (over 90%) This is a risk factor that is easily controlled.

Here are some suggestions:
    Avoid unnecessary and prolonged sun exposure.

    Use a sunscreen with a skin protection factor higher than 15.

    Avoid exposure to sun between the hours of 10 am and 3 p.m.

    Wear long-sleeved outdoor clothing and a hat with a brim in the sun.

    Protect your children from excess exposure to sunlight.

    Don't ignore any suspicious skin growth, particularly one that changes in shape, color, or pigmentation.

Sexually Transmitted Infections Few if any of us consider infections as a risk for more serious diseases.

And even fewer, consider the risk of any sexually transmitted disease as having long-term, often cancerous results.

Agent Type of cancer
Human papillomavirus (HPV) Cervix, vulva, anus, penis, head and neck
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) Liver
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) Liver
Helicobacter pylori Stomach
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) Nasopharynx, Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Human herpesvirus type 8 (HHV-8) Kaposi’s sarcoma
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) Kaposi’s sarcoma, lymphoma
Human T-cell lymphotrophic virus type I (HTLV-I) Leukemia/lymphoma
Schistosomes Bladder
Liver flukes Bile duct

Screening and Family History & Genetics

And lastly, frequent screening for such treatable and often preventable diseases such as breast cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer and melanoma all help to reduce your risk later in life. And while genetics is still in its infancy, the communication you have with your doctor, especially when it comes to family history of illness is extremely important.

So if you are focused solely on the monetary value of your retirement plan, it would be wise to take into consideration some of the additional factors that are well within your control and most importantly, can end up thwarting all your well-intentioned efforts.