DALLAS (BP)--We hear a lot these days about rising health care costs. I know when I see a bill from my doctor, I'm sure glad I have health insurance. But insurance isn't enough. I firmly believe that if health care costs are ever going to stabilize, it's up to me to do my part to stay healthy.

By taking some common sense steps and with a little help from our doctors, each of us potentially could save thousands of dollars on health care and also prevent injury, illness, disability and premature death.

Making responsible lifestyle choices is the first step toward good health. Here are a few tips:

  • Don't smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Choose a diet low in fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.
  • Fasten seat belts and be sure that kids ride in proper safety seats.
  • Brush and floss regularly.
  • See your doctor and dentist regularly.

One of the most important things you can do for your health and your family's health is to schedule regular checkups with your physician. You should discuss any risks due to your lifestyle, family history or other factors, and follow up regularly with appropriate preventive tests.

Preventative Care Guidelines 

Preventive care is as important for your health as treatment is when you're sick. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (www.ahrq.gov/clinic/USpstfix.htm) has developed guidelines to help keep you and your family on track with preventive care screenings and exams needed for your particular age and gender. Discuss with your doctor the types of tests and timeline for your age and health history.

For adults, the focus of preventive care is to eliminate high-risk behaviors and screen for chronic and/or life-threatening diseases. For children and young adults, the focus is on maintaining or developing healthy lifestyle habits and eliminating high-risk behaviors. For infants and young children, physical and mental development, immunizations, nutrition and safety are key.

The guidelines have been created for the general population who do not currently have symptoms or disease. If you have a medical condition like heart disease, asthma or diabetes, recommendations for some tests may be different. Your doctor can help you determine how often certain tests should be performed to maintain your health.

You can help put prevention into practice by working with your doctors to make sure you get all the preventive care you need. Take charge of your health and live a longer and healthier life.



Tamara Quintana is the director of the employee wellness program for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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