As a working adult, you tend to focus your energy on wealth and other urgent demands of daily life, while neglecting one very important but less demanding aspect which is health.
Perhaps you think you have a get-out-of-jail free card by having plenty of medical insurance coverage.
Medical insurance in Malaysia does help to cover your hospitalisation and surgical (H&S) costs and acts as the first line of defence.
However, there are exclusions including pre-existing conditions and it does not prevent you from getting sick in the first place.
It is in your hands to build that shield yourself with adequate healthcare insurance, better health habits, and simply making conscious choices to live healthier.
To help you stay motivated and build your shield against poor health, here is an idea that might appeal to you. Would you treat your health differently if you viewed it as a health bank account?
What do you mean by a health account?
The concept is simple. Just like a normal bank account, think in terms of deposits, withdrawals, and balance. Made a good health decision? That’s a deposit.
Did something unwise for your health? That’s a withdrawal, taking advantage of your still-positive health account balance.
With a healthy health account, you have more opportunities to enjoy your accumulated wealth. Think of the life you will get to live in your old age with minimal aches and pains, less tablets to swallow, and more energy to do what brings you joy.
If that appeals to you, then it is certainly worthwhile to consciously make regular health deposits and closely monitor those health withdrawals.
What counts as health deposits and health withdrawals?
Be mindful of your choices and consider how many of these health decisions you are making and in which direction.
Below are seven categories of general health decisions as guidance. For each decision, it’s a health deposit if you do it or a health withdrawal if you do not.
1. Exercise often
Exercising regularly (150 minutes or 30 minutes five times a week).
Do an exercise that works for you.
2. Eat healthy
Reduce fried food. Choose raw (vegetables, fruits), steamed, baked, boiled, or grilled.
Reduce processed food. Choose real food where possible.
Reduce food exposed to pesticides, hormone injections, and antibiotics.
Reduce red meat.
Eat five servings (80gm each) of non-starchy fruit and vegetables a day.
Add more fibre in your diet (30gm a day).
Balance nutrition. Take supplements where necessary.
Choose to eat low GI food.
Choose to consume less salt.
Choose to consume less sugar.
Eat more anti-inflammatory food.
Eat regular meals.
Find out what eating habits work best for you.
3. Stay hydrated
Drink enough water (3 litres a day).
Avoid carbonated drinks.
Reduce your alcohol intake.
4. Weight management
Maintain your weight, keep your BMI within normal range.
Maintain your weight, keep your waist line below 35 inches for women and below 40 inches for men.
5. Get sleep and downtime
Get sufficient quality sleep daily.
Take a break when you need one, for better productivity.
6. Mental health
Be kind to yourself.
Take a break when you need it.
Let go of resentment and tackle frustrations rather than dwell on them.
Spend quality time with family and friends.
Do things that spark joy.
7. Set health habits
Schedule and go for routine medical check ups.
Schedule and go for dental check ups (twice a year).
Keep your immunisations (vaccinations) up to date.
If you’re on medication, take your medication appropriately. Don’t skip.
Avoid (or at least reduce) smoking, including second-hand smoke.
Customizing your health withdrawals and deposits
Unlike money, there is some room for customization when it comes to deciding what is a health deposit or a health withdrawal. In general, you know some things work for all humans, for example, eating healthy.
But, some things are definitely specific to your individual needs and preferences. Eating healthy by following a ketogenic diet works for Person A, but eating healthy by following a vegetarian diet works for Person B.
It’s worthwhile taking time to figure out your specific needs. Keep the end in mind and stay motivated! This is your healthy long life we are talking about.
Monitor your health account balance
It is good to examine your health account. Analyse what the data says and adjust your “spending” accordingly to cater to what works best for you and your health account.
Keep up the momentum
Utilize technology and mobile apps. Set daily reminders to drink water or go for a brisk walk. Set periodic reminders to check your health account balance.
Use fitness tracking gadgets like FitBit if exercise is a key focus for you. If you are counting calories, the MyFitnessPal app has a decent Malaysian/Singaporean food database.
There are habit tracking apps that not only track your progress but also encourage you to continue healthy habits, such as Habitica. Healthy habits will help you sustain your lifestyle change better.
Treat your health as you would your wealth. It is far more precious and easily damaged. Take time out today and look into what you can do to make more health deposits and reduce your health withdrawals.
May you have a long and happy life, with less spending on medical bills, and more spending on things that make you happy for a long, long time ahead!
This article first appeared in mypf.my
MyPF is on a mission to help simplify and grow Malaysians’ personal finances through financial education.