Heart attacks can be a danger to your health and your pocketbook

Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 6:05 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 22, 2022 at 10:57 AM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Everyone knows that heart attacks can pose a danger to your life.

But they can also be catastrophic to your financial life as well.

According to studies by the Business Group on Health, the average total cost of a severe heart attack can be as much as a million dollars when you take into account not only hospital costs but medications, follow-up doctor’s visits, and potential loss of wages.

The average cost of a less severe heart attack is $760,000. And if you spread those figures out over 20 years of payments that’s still $50,000 per year for a severe heart attack and $38,000 per year for a less severe heart attack.

“If you’re well covered with a good insurance payer then there are not too many worries,” said Mercy cardiologist Dr. David Cochran. “But if not it could have a really big impact on your savings.”

“You don’t want to have a heart attack when you see your monthly bills,” said Mark Gardner, President of Retire Well Dallas, a wealth management company.

That’s why financial planners warn you that especially as you get older, you need to make sure you’re prepared for unexpected threats to your savings and retirement accounts.

“How much do you need to live? Guess what? Most people don’t even have a clue,” Gardner said. “By not planning they put not only themselves in danger but they put their families in danger. I ask couples what day of the week they spend the most money on. I get all kinds of answers but the real answer is every day. If you don’t budget it can cost you a lot of money. So just like your health, you need to do a check-up on your finances. And when you’re retired your budget usually comes in at about 75 percent of what your normal monthly needs were when you were working because you don’t have a lot of the same overhead.”

Gardner also pointed out that women are outliving men 6-8 years and that healthcare costs are continuing an upward trend.

“While they are alone those women are going to be paying in their lifetime around a quarter-of-a-million dollars more in their medical costs,” he said.

Conversely, just as you need to invest time in determining your financial situation you also need to invest time in your heart health.

“It’s kind of like developing a retirement plan,” said CoxHealth cardiology PA Marc Reitzner. “You don’t want to wait until the very end. The sooner you start the more benefits you get from it. You always need to find a way to incorporate activity into your life. I see some patients in our office who are 90 years old and despite them having heart troubles, they’re more active than some of my 60 year-olds. And they tell me they walk every single day. You have to make time for it.”

“I think when you’re younger you probably take it too much for granted,” Cochran added. “I hear all the time from patients who say they’re in way better shape than they were in their 30′s and 40′s but they had to learn it the hard way.”

So no matter what your age, you need to avoid the risk factors.

“Those risk factors would include smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol,” Reitzner said.

Also, remember that even at a younger age you’re setting the stage for how healthy you’ll be later in life.

“By the time your blood sugar and blood pressure is rising you’re already starting to change the physiology and the pathology of what’s going on in your arteries,” Cochran explained. “We really need to do a better job of teaching people to eat healthy starting in childhood because it will be easier to stay on top of that as they get into their 20′s and 30′s. Once you get into an obesity range it’s a lot harder to make those changes.”

“I think it’s one of the under-told aspects of healthcare that patients can have physical control over their outcomes,” Reitzer added. “They can take ownership of this.”

Another way to take ownership is to get medical check-ups like a coronary calcium health screening.

“That determines what is their future risk for a coronary event,” Cochran said. “It’s not unreasonable for patients who have a family history or other risk factors to get it (the screening) before age 40. But there’s no set age for when you should start.”

If you’d like more information on coronary calcium health screenings, you can go to: //www.mercy.net/KnowYourHeart

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