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How the Power of Prevention Can Help Your Health Savings Account Grow

Health Savings Accounts allow people to put aside pre-tax money to cover future medical expenses.  If the money is not withdrawn to pay medical bills, it grows tax-deferred like an IRA.  By following certain lifestyle measures, HSA owners can dramatically reduce their chances of developing diseases, and can end up with a nice retirement account.

A majority of medical expenditures in this country pay for treatment of chronic conditions that are mostly preventable. Unfortunately, most people don’t take their health seriously until after they get sick. Simply by eating well and exercising, you can avoid the medical conditions and expenses that affect the majority of Americans, allowing the money in your Health Savings Account (HSA) to continue growing tax-free.

Only You Can Prevent Heart Disease, Cancer, Diabetes…

Most of us go through our lives stuck in our lifestyle patterns, with no idea of the power we have to positively influence our own health. And so by the time we're in our 40's most of us are on at least one regular medication. By the time we're in our 60's over 85% of all Americans have at least one degenerative disease. And by the time we are in our 70's we're dead.

But in fact, a majority of the diseases people suffer from as they age are almost totally preventable.

  • Cancer: Researchers from the National Cancer Institute believe that 80-95% of all cancer cases are due to environmental and lifestyle causes, and are thus preventable. Diet may be involved in at least half of all cancers, and one third of all cancers are linked to obesity.
  • Dementia: Mark Houston, M.D., Medical Director at Hypertension and Vascular Biology Institute at Saint Thomas Hospital and Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, estimates that 95% of all dementia is preventable with a lifestyle approach.
  • Heart disease: Numerous studies indicate that 90% - 99% of all heart disease may be preventable.
  • Diabetes: One of the nation's most renowned health researchers, Harvard University's Walter Willet, has estimated that 92% of type-2 diabetes is preventable.

How to Eat

Probably the very most important factor that can positively affect the health of most people is changing the way they eat. There are many, mostly conflicting theories about what kind of diet is the healthiest. In my opinion, the only one that really makes sense is to eat according to the way we evolved to eat.

The idea of "Paleolithic Nutrition" was first published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1985 in an article by Dr. S. Boyd Eaton. Since then it has been popularized by Loren Cordain, Ph.D., in his book, The Paleo Diet, and studied by nutritional scientists all over the world. The premise is simple: Our genes determine our nutritional needs.

For over 2.5 million years, humans evolved as hunter-gatherers, and the selective pressures of their lifestyle and diet determined the genes that we have today. Our genetic make-up is exquisitely tuned to function best on the foods that we evolved to eat.

A mere 500 generations ago the Agricultural Revolution brought sudden and dramatic change to our diets, and the changes are continuing to this day. But our genes haven't managed to keep pace with the change.

Today approximately 2/3 of the foods we eat were those never encountered by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. The result is high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and a host of other ills that we should not have to suffer.

While most of us do not have access to large wild game and wild-harvested organic produce, the more closely we can mimic the foods that our ancestors ate the better health we will have. So simply base your meals around a lot of fruits and vegetables, along with some lean protein.

You could start by eating eggs and cantaloupe for breakfast. Lunch could consist of a large salad with grilled chicken. For dinner have some wild salmon, asparagus, and salad. Finish off the meal with a big bowl of fresh blueberries.


Everyone knows that exercise is good for them, but who wants to spend an hour jogging everyday. (Some people do, but most don't have the time or desire to go out jogging for an hour every day). What does work to give you the maximum benefit for the least amount of time is exercise with intensity.

So if it's okay with your doctor, go out and exercise like you mean it. Run wind sprints, lift weights, and exert yourself. And get it done in 30 minutes or less. Combined with the right diet, this kind of exercise will get the most results for the least effort. You will gain more muscle and lose more fat than if you were going out for long slow jogs, and you'll feel great!

There are of course other factors that affect your health, including stress, sleep, clean air and water, and even genetics. But there's nothing you can do that will have more impact than eating a good diet and being active.

So be proactive, with both your money and your health.  Take advantage of the incredible tax and wealth-building benefits of an HSA by funding it fully every year.  And take the right lifestyle measures to avoid the preventable diseases that affect most people as they age.  Then in your retirementHealth Fitness Articles, you can enjoy the good health and accumulated wealth that you so rightly deserve.

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By Wiley Long - President, HSA for America ( - The nation's leading independent health insurance firm specializing in individual and family coverage that works with Health Savings Accounts.

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