Health insurance is one of the most fundamental types of insurance after life cover in terms of being an absolute necessity for everyone. It is important as it provides financial security to meet health related contingencies.

We all strive to provide the best we can to our loved ones. We meticulously plan and save for that new mobile, latest car or that dream holiday. We however do not save as meticulously for getting medical treatment in the face of a medical emergency. Even if some of us plan, the savings may prove to be insufficient if there is a long term illness in the family.

According to WHO statistics, about 47% and 31% of hospital admissions in rural and urban India, respectively, were financed by loans and sale of assets. WHO says, 3.2% Indians will fall below the poverty line because of high medical bills. About 70% of Indians spend their entire income on healthcare and purchasing drugs.

Such unforeseen Medical emergencies not only stress our immediate cash flows, they are also likely to adversely impact financial commitments towards regular savings thus impacting achievements of any long term financial goals. Add to it the burden of any loans that one may take to pay for medical expenses.

The cost of medical care is also increasing due to inflation and advancements in medical technology. At the same time the longevity is improving thus forcing us to consume more medical care.

So what do we do?


Adopt a Healthy Life Style!

And purchase adequate health insurance cover!

All of the above!

The importance of nutritious food cannot be understated; after all, you are what you eat. Nutrition is a matter of life-long eating habits. Your diet not only has an impact (good or bad) on your health but also on your mental and emotional wellbeing. It, thus, becomes imperative that one inculcates good food habits to stay fit and enjoy a wholesome life.

Both, refined and whole grains are important sources of carbohydrates, which supply energy to the body in the form of glucose to the red blood cells, brain and the central nervous system.

Whole grains are cereal grains like wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, rye, etc. They consist of the entire grain seed of the plant the bran, the germ and the endosperm.

Refined flour contains only the endosperm. It is made from crushing the grain, whereby the fibre-rich outer layer (bran) and the nutrient-packed germ are removed. The refining process removes nearly 25 per cent of the grain's protein, along with at least seventeen key nutrients. Even if these nutrients are added back, it would not give the same benefits as whole grains, which provide more protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.

As compared with refined flour, our body takes more effort to digest whole grains. The longer the digestion process, lesser the insulin created, thus making one feel full for a longer duration. This is exactly why people who are keen on losing weight are advised to eat whole grains.

Whole grains come with several health benefits. Its consumption is known to significantly lower the incidence of heart diseases, cancer, type II diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, regular consumption of whole grains can also help in reducing hypertension Other benefits as suggested by recent research include reduced risk of asthma, inflammatory diseases, colorectal cancer, healthier carotid arteries and blood pressure levels, less gum disease and tooth loss.

It is generally recommended that an adult should eat at least half his grains as whole grains - at least 3-5 servings every day.

Considered to be one of the most essential minerals for the human body, iron is an integral component of any healthy diet.

Iron forms a part of the compound haeme, which is necessary for carrying oxygen to cells and carbon dioxide away from cells. Iron is needed for the formation of haemoglobin. As a component of haeme, iron also acts towards the structural capabilities of a protein called myoglobin that is used to store and transport oxygen from muscle cells. It also contributes to the production of energy along with acting as an anti-oxidant. Via an enzyme called ribonucleotide reductase, iron also works towards the optimal growth, reproduction and immunity of all cells in the body.

Deficiency in the level of iron in the body can have disastrous effects. Individuals with insufficient iron in their bodies are known to suffer from fatigue, palpitations, brittle nails and impaired mental development (in children). Sufficient quantities of iron should be consumed based on the age of individuals. Children should have between 7 and 10 mg/day while adults should attempt to consume between 8 and 15 mg/day of iron. However, individuals engaging in highly strenuous activities may need a higher intake to compensate for the greater need for energy.

Foods rich in iron include spinach, lentils, lima beans, beef liver, organic chicken, avocado and potato with the skin, among others.

A healthy intake of iron is crucial to proper mental and development of individuals. Some studies have also shown that iron helps in clotting of blood and aids in battling anaemia and haemophilia. In addition, iron promotes healthy hair growth. However, iron consumption must be carefully regulated, for excessive consumption is known to cause Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and liver cancer.

Sugar is the second most traded commodity in the world for one simple reason there is an insatiable demand for it. We use salt and sugar to cook food and make drinks every day of our lives. Often we do not even think twice before adding that extra spoon of salt or sugar to make the meal just a little tastier or the drink a little more enticing. However, we fail to realise the adverse long term effects such unnecessary use of these commodities can have on our well being.

Choosing food which is low in sodium content, substituting salt with herbs and spices while cooking and consuming less processed food all go a long way to reducing the intake of salt. Sugar ingestion can be mitigated by eating less junk food and drinks, having whole grain breakfast cereals that are not coated with honey or sugar and gradually using less sugar in coffee and tea. Drinking more water every day is a great way to significantly marginalise sugar consumption.

Many of us fail to realise the impact both salt and sugar have on our health because they are fundamental ingredients in almost all food and drink, and are often added in small quantities. However, what we do not consider is the cumulative amount of salt and sugar we consume on a monthly or yearly basis. Reducing salt and sugar consumption aids in living a balanced life by reducing the risk of illnesses and diseases.

How many times have you had a doctor telling you to DRINK MORE WATER? Well, it will do you a world of good to listen to him/ her. Despite being such a basic element of our lives, we often fail to realize the numerous benefits that can be gained simply by drinking more water everyday.

Water is known to reduce the risk of heart disease by over 40 per cent. Just think, four out of every ten cases of heart attacks could have potentially been avoided if the individuals had drunk 8 or more glasses of water everyday.

Water is also vital to weight loss, since it acts as the ideal substitute for drinks and juices that are high in calories. (Water is devoid of sugar, carbohydrates and fat, and is therefore an ideal drink.)

Water hydrates the body. Drinking 8 or more glasses a day reduces headaches and dehydration which in turn induces fatigue and dizziness. In fact, studies have shown that water is also the best cure for a hangover, as it tackles the underlying cause of the hangover - dehydration.

Drinking lots of water also has the added merits of providing healthier skin, providing energy for the body, quenching thirst, helping with digestive problems, de-toxifying the body and reducing the risk of cancer.

The habit of drinking water should be imbibed as soon as possible. Carry a bottle with you at all times. Set yourself a target of drinking one glass at the start of every hour to ensure that sufficient water is taken in. All excess water is removed from the body. As such, water poses no real threat to your physical well being. So, drink lots of water, it might just save your life.

This is misguided thinking as its heat and the amount of cooking time that affects nutrient losses, not the cooking method. Since microwave often cooks food quicker, it helps minimize nutrient losses unlike conventional methods which lead to losing of water sensitive nutrients due to excess heat, especially vitamin C and thiamin (vitamin B).

We seem to be increasingly aiming for an environment that is perfectly sterile. However, while we tend to think of bacteria as germs responsible for illness, human body is full of good bacteria. Healthy skin contains around 1000 different species of “good bacteria” which help prevent disease. Likewise, the human gut contains a multitude of good bacteria which keep us healthy. While good hygiene is of course important, so is protecting our good bacteria by avoiding overuse of antibiotics or over-cleansing the skin.

In theory, we are told that our blood sugar levels are low when we are in fasted state. This in turn, targets more fat burning. However, the reality is that greater intensity of fitness training is more effective in burning calories. But maintaining high intensity in a fasted state can be difficult. In fact, experts state that not eating at regular intervals means the body starts to store food and not burn it up immediately!

  • How does one know whether he or she is healthy? 30 percent of all heart attack victims never have any warning! People often wait until a crisis occurs before they visit a doctor. Make preventive medical check–ups part of your annual health routine.
  • It’s never too late to go in for relevant medical checkup & get the report card.

We often read a label on a food product that says 'Fat Free!' and breathe a sigh of relief that we can eat something without having to worry about putting on weight. While this might seem like a logical conclusion considering we aim to reduce the fat in our body through diet and exercise, it is simply a misleading interpretation.

To reduce weight and inches, we need to ensure that our caloric intake is less than the amount of calories that are utilised. Reducing fat ingestion does not necessarily translate into reducing weight, because caloric content remains in proteins and carbohydrates as well. Therefore, foods that are labelled as 'fat free' can have high caloric value. This is because they may contain other food groups such as carbohydrates. As such, individuals could quite easily surpass their daily caloric requirements without consuming a single gram of fat, because of an increased intake of carbohydrates or proteins. Thus, people often put on weight despite almost completely eliminating fat from their diet.

Though a single gram of fat contains nine calories (which is more than twice that of proteins or carbohydrates), doing away with it completely is not a healthy decision. Unsaturated fat is required as part of a healthy diet as fat is the source for energy. Thus, unsaturated fats consumed in regulated quantities are actually beneficial to the body.

To reduce weight in a healthy manner, one should ideally consume all food groups but in moderate quantities, rather than eradicate one group completely. This is vital when it comes to removing fat from the diet, as fat cannot be produced by the body and must be derived via the diet.

Overall mental and physical well being is crucial to being a productive and happy individual.

Exercising regularly can go a long way to ensuring physical strength and endurance. However, no amount of exercise can nullify the effects of poor eating habits over an extended period of time.

In order to lose weight, the number of calories burned must exceed the number of calories ingested. As such, the surest method to weight loss is to exercise regularly and control the quantity as well as the type of foods consumed. Watching what you eat is vital even if you are trying to maintain your weight and prevent the addition of some unnecessary kilos. Eat everything in moderation.

The key is not to drastically reduce the intake of food, but to eat smart. Fat can be ingested, but only unsaturated fat should be consumed rather than trans fat (trans fat is found in commercially baked goods such as cookies, cakes and in fried items such as doughnuts and french fries).

Sufficient protein should also be eaten in order to ensure continuous regeneration of cells and development of the body.

Exercise has various direct and indirect benefits for the body. While the primary aim is often to lose weight via exercise, exercise cannot compensate for a poor diet. Not being careful when it comes to eating habits can have disastrous short and long term effects.

Weight gain is often an immediate result of excessive eating or poor eating habits. In the long term, such individuals expose themselves to disease like heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Eating healthy is not simply a pre-requisite for weight loss.

It is also a necessary ingredient for a healthy well-balanced lifestyle. Proper nutrition provides sufficient energy and reduces the chances of disease. It is vital to watch what you eat in order to be healthy and productive. Exercise alone will be unable to guarantee that.

  • Battle heart disease with Sweet corn. It is packed with chromium; the higher the levels of this mineral, the lower chance of ticker troubles.- Harvard University
  • Don your coat to avoid heart attack. During colder months, blood pressure rises, along with the risk of clots. A 1oC reduction in the average temperature was associated with a 2 percent increase in heart attack risk over 28 days.- London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
  • Kiwi fruit is a useful source for reducing platelet clump by 18 percent. Eating kiwi has same effect as aspirin for heart health.– University of Ohio
  • Drinking 60ml of pomegranate juice everyday for a year can improve blood flow & lower your systolic blood pressure by 21 per cent.– Rambam Medical Centre, Israel
  • Healthy Bones equal a healthy heart. People are 60 per cent more likely to have a heart attack if diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, so keep up on your calcium to keep to the beat.– Journal of Internal Medicine
  • People who eat six small meals a day have 5 per cent lower cholesterol levels than those who only eat one or two large meals. Reduce portion sizes and eat little and often.– British Medical Journal
  • Refrigerating your vitamin supplements will prolong their effectiveness, dramatically decreasing your risk of heart disease.– Purdue University
  • Brushing your teeth reduces the risk of heart disease by 70 per cent by fighting the bacteria that causes inflammation.– University College of London.
  • Chocolate milkshake reduce the risk of a heart attack. Cocoa’s anti inflammatory benefits reduce the chances of atherosclerosis.– University of Barcelona
  • Lengthen your life by having fun in the sun. Five to twenty minutes of sunshine can decrease your risk of death from heart disease by 26 per cent.– Johns Hopkins University
  • Have vanilla yogurt to avoid heart disease. Vanilla is full of essential antioxidants, which reduce inflammation.– European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
  • A glass of milk a day helps to keep hypertension at bay, the nasty ailment that can lead to stroke and heart disease.– American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
  • A human life is exposed to various types of health risks.
  • There are those rare conditions like cancer or heart attack where the financial impact could be very high. Not only would such conditions need significant expenses for treatment in a specialised hospital for extended period, such conditions may also affects the income of the person.
  • Then there are those conditions which are more frequently occurring in ones’ life time like treatment for malaria, dengue etc. Such conditions would need treatment for shorter periods and also the financial drain would not be very significant.
  • Insurance is needed to meet health expenses as well as to cover loss of income due to sickness and disability.
  • Life Insurers offer broadly two types of products – Fixed Benefits and Med-e-claim products.
  • Fixed Benefit Plans like Critical Illness help one to compensate for loss of income should one of the less probable medical condition arises. Since such plans are income replacement plans and do not reimburse for treatment of medical expenses incurred, usually no medical bills are required to claim a critical illness benefit. Proof of diagnosis is sufficient to pay the benefits. Such policies pay the benefits only once and then the cover ceases.
  • Medical expense reimbursement plans or more commonly “med-e-claim” plans on the other hand provide for actual medical expenses incurred in a hospital. These expenses could range from low amounts incurred in treatment of common ailments like malaria or dengue to significant expenses incurred in treatment of critical illnesses. Such policies do not cease on payment of claim once and continue to pay the claims every year.
  • There is another category of health products which is more commonly called health savers. These are savings based plans with a critical illness cover or a med-e-claim plan. The focus of such plans is to help to build a fund to meet health expenses when insurance is not available and the need is high especially at older age. The savings are used only for health related expenses and hence the funds are earmarked for health purposes only.

So which is the best plan? Which plan should one buy?

The reality is that none of these plans are exactly comparable or interchangeable.A comprehensive health insurance portfolio should have adequate combination of cover offered by each of the above mentioned plans.


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