Benefiting You

Smart lifestyle choices key to preventing disability

The thought of being disabled and unable to work — even for a short time — can be pretty unsettling. Having disability insurance in your pocket is a good idea, and here’s another one:

Prevent it from happening in the first place.

No, you can’t totally rule out your chance of disability (that’s why we have insurance). And in fact, 1 in 4 of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before they retire.

But many of the conditions that lead to disability can be prevented or minimized with smart lifestyle choices .

Take arthritis, the nation’s leading cause of disability. Your risk increases with age, but two-thirds of people with arthritis are under age 65. Physical activity can be a key to managing the condition.

“When a chronic condition becomes a disability issue, it also becomes a quality of life issue,” explains Laurie Mitchell, assistant vice president of global health and wellness at Unum. “And while it’s oftentimes difficult to be active when you’re hurt, that’s when physical activity is the most important. Regular exercise actually helps reduce symptoms and it’s also vital in maintaining a healthy weight.”

And that’s important for people with arthritis, because it commonly occurs with other chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease — two more conditions that commonly cause people to miss work. Back pain, cancer and depression are also high on the list.

In fact, regular exercise and a healthy diet are two of the most vital lifestyle choices you can make to reduce your likelihood of becoming disabled. Obesity is linked to several types of cancer. And exercise can help lessen symptoms of depression. It also helps manage stress, which itself can lead to health problems.

Even if you already have one of these conditions, it’s not too late to take steps (literally!) to manage your likelihood of becoming disabled.

“The lifestyle choices we make as we age can help reduce the chances of some conditions escalating into disabilities,” says Mitchell. And, she says, there is a need for continued education on what it means to eat a healthy diet and live an active lifestyle in order to set ourselves up for consistent and long term success.

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