Simple ways to feel healthier in tough times

Recently, we’ve heard a lot of good news about job growth and the pace of economic recovery in the U.S. And while we’re certainly headed in the right direction, there are still many Americans who are living under tighter budgets. For some, this may mean fewer vacations or less dining out. Unfortunately, others are left unable to afford vital medical services.

This is especially true for seniors and retirees who are on fixed incomes. According to a recent study by a Washington-based think tank, more than 27% of Americans over the age of 50 reported difficulty in paying monthly bills. What’s worse, of those surveyed, about 20 percent reported switching to cheaper medications, failing to take current prescriptions or skipping doctor visits to save money.

Within our community, African Americans were among those most likely to report prescription drug changes (25.9 percent) and missed or postponed doctor appointments (27.3 percent).

But this research doesn’t mean that living healthier isn’t a priority for seniors and their families. In fact, the opposite is true. Now more than ever, people are looking for simple changes and decisions they can make to feel and live healthier.  This month, National Public Health Week focuses on the little steps we can take to improve our overall health, including chronic disease prevention.

Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death in the United States, and unfortunately, African Americans are more likely to contract many of the most common fatal chronic diseases than their white counterparts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, there are steps you can take to have a meaningful impact on reducing your risk of chronic disease. For example, diabetes, a chronic disease that is particularly prevalent in the African American community, may be prevented if you make healthy food choices and pursue an active lifestyle. You can also reduce the risk of other chronic diseases by making simple changes to your lifestyle, such as quitting smoking, which can cause lung cancer. And just as critical in the prevention of these diseases is early detection. Education and regular screenings promise the greatest chance of successful treatment. This year’s World Health Day theme, “Good health adds years to life,” encouraged older men and women to take charge of their well-being and to champion health in their families and communities.

In cases when developing a chronic disease or other illness is beyond our control, medications are available to help reduce the negative effects these diseases have on patients’ lives. In order for a treatment to be successful, patients need to take prescribed medications as recommended by their doctor. But in today’s economic times, not everyone can afford the medicines they need. Fortunately, there are programs available to help.

This month marks the seventh anniversary of the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA), a program from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of American that has helped connect nearly seven million patients to patient assistance programs that provide free or nearly free prescriptions. PPA connects patients to more than 475 assistance programs provided by pharmaceutical research companies and offers more than 2,500 brand-name medicines.

Larry Lucas is a retired vice president for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

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