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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Staying Healthy in Tough Times

Try these cheap ways to boost health in a bad economy.

Tempted to save money by skipping medications?

Don't. Talk to your doctor before you make any change in your medication regimen. A 2009 survey found that almost 7% of brand-name prescriptions ordered by doctors went unfilled in the last quarter of 2008. More than 4% of generic drug prescriptions were never filled.

People are especially likely to stop taking medications for symptom-less conditions, such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, or type 2 diabetes. Yet these are the very conditions which, uncontrolled, can be debilitating and even deadly. Between one-third and two-thirds of hospitalizations are blamed on the failure to take medicine as directed, including not filling prescriptions. If you’re struggling to pay for your medications:

  • Talk to your doctor. Cheaper drugs may be available. "Or you may be able to try a non-drug approach, such as changing your diet to bring your blood pressure down,” says Stanford University preventive health expert Wes Alles, PhD.
  • Ask your pharmacist or your local health department about prescription drug assistance programs for low-income people.
  • Check out on-line resources and low-cost prescription drug programs, including NeedyMeds at, RxAssist at, and Partnership for Prescription Assistance at

Feeling stressed out by financial woes?

Recognize the symptoms of stress, which include sleeplessness, irritability, and anxiety. Then find a way to let off steam. Proven stress busters include meditation, breathing exercises, and progressive relaxation techniques.

If you're too stressed out to sit still, be active. Many studies show that exercise is an effective way to relieve stress. Another option: watch a funny movie. Research conducted by Lee Berk, PhD, a psychologist at Loma Linda University in California, shows that laughing out loud lowers stress hormone levels and boosts the immune system.

"We jokingly call it 'laughercise' because the benefits are so much like exercise," he says.

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Reviewed on August 27, 2009

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