7 Ways to Improve Cardiovascular Health
Why It Matters:
- Prioritizing financial and physical wellness is beneficial to clients and financial professionals alike.
- Small steps add up: Start with Life’s Simple 7.
- Consider the following tips from the American Heart Association.
While no life journey is the same, we all eventually arrive to a universal destination: retirement. This is true for financial professionals, clients, and even David Letterman.
It’s easy to picture your ideal future, but there are certain hurdles — planned and unplanned — that could unravel the sturdiest of plans. No one can predict the surprises tomorrow holds, but we can take steps today to limit our exposure to preventable medical issues, unnecessary prescriptions, and costly procedures.
As we close in on retirement and the inevitable rise of healthcare costs, your financial health and physical health should be top of mind. Consider Life’s Simple 7 from the American Heart Association.
Bottom line: Poor health costs money
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States, according to recent statistics. This means about 659,000 people in the United States die from heart disease each year — or 1 in every 4 deaths.1
Cardiovascular disease — which refers to a number of heart and blood vessel conditions— and strokes are the leading causes of death in the US. The cost alone is staggering, with direct costs of $214 billion and a further cost of $138 billion due to lost job productivity.2
Cardiovascular disease and stroke accounted for 13% of total health expenditures in 2014 to 2015. This is more than any major diagnostic group.3
Meanwhile, other diseases and chronic conditions in older age affect a retiree’s budget as well. The latest numbers for diabetes, a contributor to heart disease, kidney failure, and blindness, is an estimated annual cost of $327 billion. And cancer, the second-leading cause of death in the U.S., is expected to reach nearly $174 billion in costs by 2020.2
Prevention pays off
“Taking action now to safeguard your health may limit future medical expenses,” said Dr. Steven Houser, former president of the American Heart Association.
“There are exceptions, but medical research clearly shows living a lifestyle in which risk factors are minimized can help you live into older age without a cardiovascular disease event,” he said. Cardiovascular health is also linked to brain health, a key concern in older age.
The American Heart Association recommends adhering to Life’s Simple 7, seven measures that can help achieve cardiovascular health. They are:
- Managing blood pressure
- Controlling cholesterol
- Reducing blood sugar
- Getting physically active
- Eating a healthy diet
- Losing weight
- Quitting smoking
“It’s all part of a health culture that can result in a longer, healthier life,” Houser said. “It doesn’t mean you can never have an ice cream cone. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a steak on occasion.”
But making seemingly little changes can add up to big health improvements.
At work, set aside a daily time for a brief walk around the block to break up chair time at your desk. Consider using a standing desk and taking the stairs rather than the elevator. Many employers and health insurance policies offer wellness programs that include gym memberships, nutrition counseling, and smoking cessation assistance.
Don’t forget regular physical exams. If you’re young and feeling fine, it can be tempting to avoid annual checkups. But seeing your healthcare provider regularly creates a baseline of information that will be useful years later when there’s a change in your medical condition.
If you haven’t lived a healthy lifestyle most of your life, it’s never too late to start — even as you reach your 60s and 70s. Living healthier later in life is better than never doing it at all.
Financial planning for health
To financially prepare for medical costs during retirement years, learn about Medicare, which is available starting at age 65, and have a backup plan to help pay for what it doesn’t cover.
“Medicare is great, but if you get really sick it’s not going to cover all your costs,” cautioned Houser.
“Worries about having comprehensive health insurance coverage keep many Americans working extra years to remain on an employer plan,” he said.
“One piece of good news for older Americans is some prescription drugs such as those for treating chronic health conditions and cardiovascular disease risks are now relatively low-cost,” he added.
Other retirement healthcare items to think about are the possibility of in-home caregiving or assisted living. Consider pricing long term care insurance plans.
Saving for out-of-pocket expenses helps. Look into flexible spending accounts (FSAs) or health savings accounts (HSAs) that allow you to set aside money for health care expenditures while benefiting from tax incentives.
For example, a health savings account used with a high-deductible health plan is a way to deposit pre-tax money, let it grow tax free, and then withdraw it tax free for qualified medical expenses later — a handy retirement tool.
“Ultimately, the best strategy is maintaining good health, something insurance companies recognize as a way to save money and a move we should all embrace,” said Houser.
“We as a country need to work on this,” he said. “We’ve got to have a holistic approach. We’ve got to keep at it.”
View our helpful infographic on getting started with Life’s Simple 7.
Things to Consider
- Adhere to the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 to get on a healthy path before retirement.
- A supplemental health plan in retirement can help cover Medicare gaps.
- Look into whether a health savings plan is right for you as a retirement tool.
1 “Heart Disease Facts,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021
2 "Health and Economic Costs of Chronic Diseases," National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2021
3 "2021 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update Fact Sheet," American Heart Association, 2021
This article was prepared by the American Heart Association (AHA). Transamerica is not affiliated with the AHA and does not control, guarantee or endorse the information. This information does not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always talk to your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. If you are in the United States and experiencing a medical emergency, call 911, or call for emergency medical help immediately.
Transamerica Resources, Inc. is an Aegon company and is affiliated with various companies which include, but are not limited to, insurance companies and broker dealers. Transamerica Resources, Inc. does not offer insurance products or securities. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as insurance, securities, ERISA, tax, investment, legal, medical or financial advice or guidance. Please consult your personal independent professionals for answers to your specific questions.