How to Use a 'Stop Loss' for Your Health Care

Most folks, when they start losing, can't help but lose more.

It's human nature to let these losses build up.

Blame it on something called loss aversion – one of the easiest ways to turn a "loser" into a "big loser."

Loss aversion drives people to simply look away from losing positions. The impulse is so strong, people are prone to sell winners early and let their losers run – the exact opposite of what you should do as an investor.

Longtime readers know I've urged you to prepare for market losses.

Taking careful steps like setting stop losses (and following them) will help you cut your losses while they are still small. Without them, you could watch your entire portfolio fall until you're bust.

But here's the thing... You need to do the same with your health.

Nothing beats eating well and exercising to keep you healthy.

But you need to know when to go to a doctor early to prevent small problems from turning into large ones.

First of all, you should have an understanding of your health. Over the years, I've discussed which medical tests are worth getting and which ones are a waste of time. Overall, here are three of my five most recommended tests everyone should get:

  1. High blood pressure screening
  2. Colorectal cancer screening
  3. Skin cancer screening

Two of these tests received a top "A" grade from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). The USPSTF is a panel of 16 MDs and PhDs whose specialties range from behavioral health to pediatrics. These experts look at the research data and make recommendations on the usefulness of screenings, counseling services, and preventive medications.

Its grades range from "A" to "D." A "D" means the USPSTF recommends against getting the exam. An "A" or a "B" grade means the USPSTF recommends the exam. Screenings for high blood pressure and colorectal cancer received "A" grades.

If the task force feels there's not enough evidence to either recommend or advise against a service, it could opt to assign the service an "I" for inconclusive. Skin cancer screening currently has an "I" grade. But I've studied the research, looked at the facts, and still believe it's one of the most important exams to maintain your health.

Each of these screenings will detect problems early. For instance, high blood pressure is a concern for most of us, but it's easy to manage if caught early. With weight loss, exercise, and stress reduction, you can lower your blood pressure and avoid a massive heart attack. It's also easy to monitor your blood pressure at home to avoid more frequent trips to your doctor, provided you measure it accurately. (You can read our issue here.)

Think about it... Knowing you're just starting to have a blood-pressure problem and taking action will prevent future complications. You don't want to wait and only find out there's a problem when you're in the ER with a doctor telling you that you need major open-heart surgery for a heart attack.

If you want to go back to our monetary angle, that's the price of an office visit today versus a trip to the ER, staying overnight for testing, and even surgery and a lengthy recovery in the future.

Blood pressure is just one example. Skin cancer screenings are noninvasive. They involve a dermatologist going over your skin once every few years. You might need to go more often depending on your skin type, the number of moles you have, and your family medical history.

And colon cancer, if caught early, has a much higher survival rate. Colonoscopies are crucial, particularly for folks between 50 and 75.

Finally, if you suffer from an injury, consider physical therapy. It does cost more than trying to sort yourself out on your own, but it helps prevent worse problems in the future. For example, properly exercising that knee injury now could help avoid replacement surgery later in life. Or if you suffer from a back injury, physical therapy can help you maintain your balance. Improved balance as we age prevents falls. And as we've written before, falls cause thousands of serious injuries and deaths every year.

These are just a few examples of preventive medicine. Taking care of yourself now means fewer hospital visits and lower bills as you age.

If you want to learn more about my five favorite tests, as well as which ones you should avoid, I cover both in my monthly newsletter, Retirement Millionaire. Subscribers can access those issues here and here. And if you aren't a subscriber, consider signing up today by clicking here.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
September 20, 2018