Retirement can last for a long time—perhaps longer than threedecades—and it’s going to be a challenge to make your money last that long, particularly if you’renot in good health.

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Even if you are, issues will undoubtedly arise demanding thecare of a doctor or, worse, a hospital.

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The better your health, both mental and physical, going intoretirement, the greater the likelihood thatyou’ll have fewer instances of problems and be able to come throughthem more quickly, recovering more thoroughly, than others mightwho are not in such good shape.

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So, if you want to be healthy in retirement and thus forestallsome of the potentially massive expenses connected to health care once you’re living off yourretirement savings, it will pay to do a littleprep work now, while you’re still working.

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This can involve making sure you have all the obligatorycheckups that might uncover potential problems while you’re stillcovered by your employer’s health care and/or wellness plans. Butthat’s not the only thing you can do to get yourself in bettershape and possibly ward off problems in the future.

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Since the possibility exists that the American Health Care Actcould make it through the Senate—albeit perhaps with major changes to at least some of itsprovisions—it behooves everyone to do all they can to improve theodds of not needing care in a nursing home or assisted livingfacility, since one of the current provisions of the bill cutsMedicaid by $880 billion.

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And since Medicaid is the means by which many seniors pay fornursing home care, it’s best to assume it might not be around tohelp you when the time comes.

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And if you’re already struggling to keep up with medicalpremiums, bear in mind that another provision of the AHCA allowsinsurers to charge older people five times more than they chargeyounger people.

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Instead, here are five suggestions that can help you prepareyourself to be as healthy as you can be in retirement, so thatwhatever the final version of medical care in this country turnsout to be, you’re ready to face it head on:

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The opposite of feelings of well-being is a feeling of isolation, so join a group. (Photo: Getty)

5. Join a community.

Whether it’s a small informal group like a book club or knittingclub, a biking, dance or martial arts group or something evenbigger, grander and more strenuous like a Habitat for Humanitygroup, consider becoming part of a larger whole.

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Especially if you’re planning on downsizing and relocating uponretirement, start investigating now and forge some links with yournew location as far ahead of time as possible, since one issue thatcan weigh on seniors’ mental and physical well-being is feelingisolated.

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Joining a community of some kind can help you feel connected,and if people you hang out with now can give you introductions topeople in your new location, you’ll have a welcome ready andwaiting when you get to your new home. Research has shown that the sense of belonging can help not just yourmorale but your mental sharpness and physical well-being—and you’llhave people you can turn to if you find you need help.

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Cooking food yourself rather than eating out, can benefit your health. (Photo: iStock)

4. Cook.

Home-cooked meals can improve your health andhelp you learn how to stretch the budget at the same time.

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And while you may feel you don’t have time to take on homecooking, you’ll be better able to control the quality of the foodyou eat while saving money on the cost of prepared foods. Inaddition, they can improve your family’s well-being, too—leading tofewer serious problems down the road.

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Cutting down on additives and preservatives while controllingthe amount of salt and sugar you eat will help you maintain ahealthier diet, and understanding more about the types of foodsavailable and the cooking process itself will enable you to puttogether more balanced meals at lower cost.

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You might also be able to avoid doctor bills for food allergies, since you’ll be in control ofwhat goes into what you eat.

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Meditation can help you mentally and physically. (Photo: Getty)

3. Meditate.

Meditation has all sorts of health benefits. Health conditions from anxietyand asthma to high blood pressure, depression, chronic pain andeven heart disease have shown improvement thanks to meditationsessions, and any improvement you can make in your mental andphysical well-being can reduce the need for conventional medicaltreatment.

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In addition, when meditation is coupled with such mindfulnessactivities as qi gong, tai chi or yoga, physical mobility improvesand that’s a good thing to seek as you get older.

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Yoga is a form of exercise that can help your body be strong and graceful as you age. (Photo: AP)

2. Exercise.

You might not particularly enjoy it, but exercise is helpful for lots of reasons. It keeps youlimber, making it easier for you to get around as you age, andweight-bearing exercise—including some types of yoga—can be helpfulin preventing the effects of osteoporosis.

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The beneficial effects of exercise also affect mental well-being, and not just through thewell-known “runner’s high.” But even those are not the onlybenefits it offers.

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While even just walking will help with everything from staminato weight control, there are the added benefits of commuting viabike.

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If it’s feasible for you to do so, try and give it a shot—afterall, in many other countries more people go to work on two wheelsthan on four. And don’t think that just because an area is hilly,you can’t manage it.

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For hills, or when you get older, you can always add a push motor to a bike. That will enable you not only tocommute even on steeper roads, but to run most of your errands viabike instead of car. That will not only save you money but keep youin shape as you age, lessening the likelihood that you’ll need theattentions of a doctor—at least for a while.

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The more you know about your finances and your retirement outlook, the more things you can do to make them better. (Photo: Getty)

1. Educate yourself.

You need to know as much as possible about your retirementsavings—both the investments and the type of plan—so that you canplan ahead and use that money to best advantage once youretire.

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At the very least, you should know the type of tax treatmenteach of your retirement accounts qualifies for, so that when thetime comes to start withdrawing money you can do it in the mostadvantageous way possible.

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There are two good health-related reasons for being aware of thetax treatments of retirement accounts: first, so that your moneywill last longer in retirement and cover more health careexpenses—meaning you’ll be less tempted to forego necessarymedication—and second, if you’re confident about what you have andhow to use it, you’ll spend less time worrying about it—and lessworry is a good thing for your health.

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