by Dr. Alan Inglis

There’s an old line of thinking that the health care industry is recession-proof. Well, tell that to the millions of Americans who are skipping doctor’s appointments to make ends meet.

According to new research from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 53 percent of Americans said they or someone living with them had cut back on health care in the past year to save money. About 27 percent said they or someone in their household postponed needed medical care – and 16 percent of households had someone who postponed surgery or a doctor’s visit for a chronic illness.

Of course, there were also respondents who weren’t filling prescriptions or were cutting pills in half because of cost.

The cost of health care can be heartbreaking, and here’s the thing… I can’t promise you it’s going to get any more affordable. I also can’t promise you that the economy is going to improve and you’ll feel better about plunking down the money for a doctor’s visit or screening.

But what I can tell you is that, in some ways, you’re very much in control of how often you’re going to need the care of a doctor. If you’re eating lots of sugar-laden, processed junk food and aren’t doing much exercise beyond the walk from the couch to the fridge, you’re creating some expensive… and life-threatening… health problems.

You also might want to consider adding supplements or foods that have been shown to prevent nasty health issues. I talk all the time about the benefits of fish oil for battling heart disease. And simply drinking green tea instead of bottle after bottle of Coca-Cola will help you avoid diabetes and protect your brain at the same time.

You can also control your medical expenses by taking a hard look at the prescription drugs you’re currently taking. Have a frank discussion with your doctor about whether you really need them, and don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. Maybe you started taking the drugs instead of making some lifestyle changes… and maybe, in this economy, you’d like to shed the monthly cost for these drugs and give lifestyle modification another shot.

At any rate, health care is expensive and probably will be for the foreseeable future. Instead of skipping doctor’s appointments, improve your health so you need to see your doctor less.

That’ll add money to your bank account – and years to your life.