Health insurance policyholders may want to make a healthier lifestyle one of their 2010 resolutions

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  • Health insurance policyholders may want to make a healthier lifestyle one of their 2010 resolutions

Having health insurance is an essential part of staying well, but by eating right and exercising, people can stay out of medical facilities in the first place

There's an incongruity in Americans' attitudes towards health: 16 percent of people are without health insurance, but two-thirds of people are overweight.

Both healthy living and having insurance are essential to maintaining good health, research shows. A study published in the December 2009 issue of the American Journal of Public Health revealed that a lack of health insurance is tied to higher mortality risk.

"The uninsured are more likely to die than are the privately insured," the study's Harvard University-based authors wrote.

An earlier study cited by the Harvard researchers determined that insurance improves health in three ways. Those with health insurance are more likely to receive needed care; the uninsured visit hospital emergency departments in greater numbers, suggesting that they receive care only when they are quite ill. Insurance also increases people's chances of having regular preventive care services. And health insurance is tied to continuity of care, which is essential to maintaining well-being.

Lifestyle choices are also essential to health. And it's a time-honored tradition to make New Year's resolutions regarding healthy eating, weight loss or exercise. But, said nutritionist Joan Buchbinder to the Boston Globe, New Year's goals should be realistic in order for them to be attainable.

"Whatever [exercise] method you choose has to be one that you like, that you can sustain and that you can see yourself doing forever," she suggested.

Weight loss goals must be realistic, too, she said. At most, people can only count on losing two pounds of fat a week - three if they're morbidly obese.

Obesity used to be a relative rarity among Americans, but it's been increasing with frightening rapidity. Just 10 percent of men and 15 percent were obese in the early 1960s, the National Center for Health Statistics reports, but those numbers have spiked to 30 and 34 percent, respectively.

The Centers for Disease Control calls today's society "obesogenic," meaning that it's characterized by "environments that promote increased food intake, [unhealthy] foods and physical inactivity."

Most troubling, perhaps, is the rising incidence of child obesity. Children who are obese risk developing diabetes and other chronic conditions. Yet the obesity rates among children between the ages of 2 and 19 are staggering: 23.2 percent of Mexican-American males and 18.5 percent of Mexican-American females are obese, government data shows. Among white children, the respective rates are 15.6 and 13.6 percent; among black children, the rates are 17.4 and 24.1 percent.

Overall obesity rates have spiked in recent years. A recent study by Columbia University and the City College of New York found that the proportion of obese people increased by 85 percent between 1993 and 2008. Smoking in American adults fell by 18.5 percent during that time.

Corroborating the CDC's statement, University of Alberta obesity researcher Dr. Arya Sharma said to CanWest News that "it is, in fact, very difficult for people to eat healthy and exercise more given the lifestyle that most of us currently have."

Nutritionist Buchbinder suggests that both diet and exercise are important in losing weight and having a healthy lifestyle. "Aim for seven days" of "40 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise," she suggested to the Globe.

Eating well is essential to health, too. Breakfast, in particular, sets the tone for the day, Buchbinder said. Lean meats and whole grains are smart choices for the other two meals.

Health may be the most important investment a person can make; lifestyle choices and health insurance can ensure a person's well-being in 2010 and beyond.

Learn how easy and convenient shopping for health insurance can be. Get your free health insurance quotes today!

Posted: January 7, 2010

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