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Would you like a hospital bill with that burger?

Ignoring preventive health measures can cost you a bundle
Your next hamburger could cost almost $48,000. That's the price tag, on average, for the initial treatment and one year of follow-up for the coronary artery disease that might result from poor food choices.

Three-quarters of healthcare services are linked to preventable, chronic or lifestyle-related conditions, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Americans spend more on healthcare than the entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of France: about $2 trillion annually. Of that, $1.5 trillion — more than the GDP of Canada — is spent to treat preventable diseases.

Pricey procrastination
Did you get your annual physical last year? Only one in 10 insured Americans takes advantage of wellness screenings, even though their plans may cover all or most of the cost. Most people only use their insurance plan when they're sick, not to help keep them well. That's like planning to replace the engine in your car instead of getting regular oil changes.

Prevention's longevity
It can be a hassle to go to the doctor. But what if a checkup can keep you out of the hospital in 10 years? Or add five years to your life? Four of the biggest killers in the U.S. — heart disease, diabetes, cancer and stroke — are largely preventable. Many cases can also be reversible or highly treatable if caught early.

According to the National Congress on Pre-Symptom Medicine, getting regular preventive care can cut projected healthcare costs in half over the next 10 years. That means prevention is a huge part of the cure for our national healthcare crisis.

Stave off sickness
So what screenings are right for you? The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has developed a standard schedule based on your age, gender and family history.

How your health plan will pay for certain tests and screenings can depend on how your plan applies the standard preventive care schedule. Checking into your plan's wellness benefits can help you make sure you're covered.

Sweat the small stuff
The effects of prevention add up. In addition to screenings, focus on healthy choices, too.

Generally, you need to eat 500 fewer calories a day to lose weight. But don't take it to extremes: eat too few calories, and your body will go into starvation mode and hang onto those pounds. Instead, switch out processed foods for whole grains, fruits and veggies. Or say "no" to one temptation every day.

Keep an eye on food labels, too. Just because it says "fat free" or "low carb" doesn't mean you can eat all you want. Calories count. Watching your overall caloric intake can help you prevent lifestyle-related disease.

Finally, exercise at least 30 minutes a day: take the stairs or walk in your neighborhood. A sedentary lifestyle has its own momentum: plop down on the couch every day, and you'll have a hard time getting motivated. Get moving instead. It can improve your waistline — as well as your bottom line.

GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention welcomes the opportunity to share this general information. However, this article is not intended to be relied upon as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.