By managing our lifestyle and making more informed health choices, it is possible to not only live longer and be healthier,
but to avoid frequent significant medical expenses, improving our financial wellbeing as well.
News24 – Digital October 2022
Chronic diseases like cancer, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and more, are becoming increasingly prevalent, and experts agree that much of the reason for this can be attributed to our modern lifestyle.
Obesity, an excess of processed foods, sedentary environments and the use and abuse of alcohol and tobacco products are all linked to these types of diseases, which require long-term medical management, often at significant expense.
By managing our lifestyle and making more informed health choices, it is possible to not only live longer and be healthier, but to avoid frequent significant medical expenses, improving our financial wellbeing as well.
Looking after your financial health
Many chronic diseases are covered by medical schemes as Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMBs).
However, they can cause a wide range of health problems and often have a knock-on effect, where one condition will cause other problems – for example, diabetes can cause eyesight and limb problems, and obesity often causes joint issues and is linked to heart disease.
These secondary conditions may not necessarily be covered as PMBs, and the medical expense shortfalls that result can be significant and financially crippling. This is why it is important to have gap cover in place as part of a financial health strategy.
“Even if chronic conditions are considered PMBs and treatment is usually by medical aid, they can still result in significant medical expense shortfalls. We have seen claims in excess of R100 000 for heart disease and spinal problems resulting from obesity, for example, and if our members had not had gap cover in place, then they would have had to fund these shortfalls out of their own pocket,” explains Tony Singleton, CEO of Turnberry.
Prevention is better than cure
While medical aid and gap cover are essential for when medical interventions are necessary, prevention is always better than cure. The reality is that chronic illness can be prevented in the majority of cases through factors that are completely within our control: eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and avoiding the use of tobacco products.
This means that these medical expense shortfalls can also be avoided, improving our financial wellbeing while we are empowered to live longer and healthier lives.
“Many people are intimidated by exercise or think that it is too late for them to start. It’s never too late, and everybody has to start somewhere. Physical activity is one of the best ways of preventing illness and is the key to health and longevity, and it is important at any age.
“You don’t even need any special equipment. Get up, take a walk. Use bottles of water as weights. Walk up and down stairs. Even the most basic physical activity, on a regular basis, can add years to your life and can even reverse certain chronic conditions. The hardest thing, though, is taking that first step,” says Peter Tuerk, health and fitness guru.
Regular physical activity has not only been linked to overall health and longevity, it is also important for improving mental and emotional health. It stimulates natural feel-good hormones, improves self-confidence, and has a range of health benefits.
Cardiovascular exercise is essential for heart health, while weight bearing exercise helps to prevent osteoporosis and maintains bone and joint health.
“Exercise alone cannot work miracles though, nutrition needs to play a role, and there are no fad diets or quick fixes that are going to give you instant results. Moderation is the most important element of any diet, combined with consistency.
“Reduce or eliminate sugar, avoid processed foods, and realise that health is not a destination but a journey that requires a lifestyle change and a complete mindset shift,” says Tuerk.
Maintaining a healthy weight is essential in preventing a range of health conditions – being overweight increases your risk of coronary artery disease and hypertension two to threefold, and your risk of type 2 diabetes tenfold. In addition, being overweight can worsen outcomes for diseases like cancer.
Regular physical activity can help reduce chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, depression and osteoporosis.
While making a change toward a healthier lifestyle can seem overwhelming, there are simple steps that can make a big difference. Firstly, avoid tobacco products completely. This is the single most important way of preventing cardiovascular disease, lung and oral cancer.
When it comes to diet, replace saturated and trans fats often found in processed foods with unsaturated fats, including sources of omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and avocado.
Eat whole grain and high fibre cereal products instead of their more processed counterparts, increase your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, and limit consumption of empty calories like sugar, sugary beverages and alcohol.
Find a form of exercise you enjoy, or join a gym or a club to find motivation from people with similar interests. If you have significant existing health problems, enlist the help of a personal trainer to develop a programme that works within your ability.
And make sure that your finances are also looked after, by having medical aid with gap cover in place to cover you for medical expense shortfalls should illness or accidents occur.
What is Gap Cover?
Gap cover stepped in where my medical aid fell short for two different procedures.
That gap money was a life saver as I had to pay that out of my savings that I was building up to buy a home! I’ve been paying gap cover for 15 years and not needed it until 2022. But as the saying goes, it never rains it pours. And in 2022 I needed to claim for two completely different procedures within two months of each other. So, you can imagine what that did to my savings… When I did need it, I was so grateful that I had it. Mandy Stanton – September 2022
I would recommend Turnberry Gap Cover, as it is less stressful and gave me more time to concentrate on my recovery. I recommend their services to all of my friends and family. For peace of mind, Turnberry handles everything! Deenashree Pillay – August 2022