DALLAS (BP)--Unhealthy lifestyle choices can reduce your quality of life, but they can also drain your bank account. From obvious costs to more subtle ones, the price tag of an unhealthy lifestyle can put your financial well-being at risk.

With health care costs continuing to rise faster than inflation, everyone is feeling the pinch, especially those who are seeing the doctor more frequently or taking medication for a chronic condition. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, almost three-quarters of the health care services in this country can be linked to preventable chronic and lifestyle-related conditions.
Continue to "super-size" your meals, and you'll be paying for more than just a plateful of fries. The poorer your health, the more you'll likely pay for health insurance as well.

The cost of an unhealthy lifestyle can most easily be found in your grocery bills. Processed and pre-packaged foods are sold at a huge mark-up over the cost of their ingredients. Buying fresh ingredients and preparing simple meals yourself can help you save a bundle, as well as boost your health.

Eating at restaurants can deliver a double whammy: You'll pay a premium for your food, and you'll likely get gluttonous portions, too. The average portion size in America has quadrupled in the past 50 years, and Americans' waistlines have kept pace. Scale back on eating out and portion size, and you could help fatten up your wallet.

Unhealthy lifestyles also can affect your career and finances. Poor health often leads to the top two causes of disability —- back problems and cardiovascular disease -- both of which can compromise your work performance. At the very least, these disorders can keep you from getting that raise or promotion you've been hoping for, while at the most, they can lead to a disability that could prevent you from working. Additionally, because of higher medical costs, you could be putting off planning and contributing toward your retirement.

Poor lifestyle choices even affect society as a whole. The poor health of employees costs employers billions each year in decreased productivity and higher medical costs, a cost that is often passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. Furthermore, unhealthy choices today can lead to astronomical living costs in the future. Americans are living longer than ever before, thanks in large part to advanced medical technology and new medications. While these advances help chronically and seriously ill patients survive, they are expensive.

Unhealthy lifestyle choices can lead to cardiovascular disease, adult-onset diabetes, back problems, cancer and a host of other costly ailments. Just as spending money wisely while you're young can help you plan for a secure retirement, eating right can help you avoid the physical and financial costs of lifestyle-related illness. That's good news for your waistline -- and your pocketbook.

Copyright 2008 Baptist Press. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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