Prescription For Savings

From low-tech to low-cost, here are some tips that can help keep you healthy


Many people cheered when, in December, word arrived that the annual rise in America’s health care costs was smaller in 2013 than in any of the last 50 years.

But we still spent almost $3 trillion on health care.

Washington pols, health care workers, and others continue to worry about how to treat all sick Americans without breaking the bank. No wonder: New cancer drugs cost tens of thousands of dollars per patient and the latest imaging machine has a price tag upward of $1 million.

But what if we go to the low-tech end of the spectrum, and look at steps anyone can take right now that don’t cost a penny, or relatively few of them, at least, to improve their health?

Adopting any — or all — of the following 10 “health hacks” may be just what the doctor ordered.


Use fresh herbs by the handful

Jo Robinson, author of Eating on the Wild Side, argues that modern farming has left us with produce that’s severely lacking in phytonutrients that can help ward off cancer, heart disease, dementia, and diabetes. Early farmers unwittingly chose plants with the lowest phytonutrient content, based on taste, according to Robinson. “Herbs are wild plants incognito” with their phytonutrients left intact, she writes. 


Analyze your recipes

If you’ve ever wondered how many calories and grams of fiber are in a serving of your Italian Nona’s stuffed tomatoes, you can create your own nutrition label for the dish at The site requires registration, but once you register for free, you can create and store recipes, complete with nutrient analysis using the USDA’s National Nutrient Database and information from restaurants and food manufacturers. 


Fight colds by gargling with water

A Japanese study of 387 healthy adults ages 18-65 showed a connection between gargling with water three times a day and reduced colds and other upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs). People who gargled with water in the study had a lower incidence of URTIs than those who gargled with an antibacterial mixture. Gargling to wash the throat is a common hygienic practice in Japan.


Get more from your dental exam

Dr. Douglas Fogel, a Southfield dentist, says dentists doing an exam to check for oral problems can spot signs of diabetes and heart disease, too.“You can see an unhealthy situation and know they need a full exam” by a physician, says Fogel. For example, chronic inflammation and gums that bleed easily may be a sign of diabetes, he says.


Sleep in the cold

A study published in 2014 in Diabetes showed that turning down the thermostat or opening a window in your bedroom can stimulate production of brown fat in your body. Five men in the study slept in a 66-degree room for a month in hospital scrubs with just a sheet covering. Increases in their brown fat stores gave them metabolic advantages that could lessen their risk for diabetes.


Join a clinical trial

Participants in clinical trials get access to new medicines and treatments not available any other way, and health professionals monitor their condition more closely. Get information about clinical trials at, a website maintained by the federal government. The site aggregates information on more than 180,000 trials, including about 9,000 available in Michigan, on conditions ranging from acne to Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome. 


Check out hospital loss leaders

Both Beaumont and St. John Providence Health System bundle a number of heart and vascular tests that check for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes for less than $100. Beaumont also offers a $300 basic screening in its Cardiovascular Performance Clinic that includes an exam by a cardiologist, an echocardiogram and exercise stress testing with direct measurement of aerobic fitness. Individually, the tests would otherwise costs hundreds to thousands of dollars.


Focus on the breath

Dr. Michael Dangovian, a cardiologist at Healthy Heart & Vascular in Sterling Heights, has been helping his patients reverse heart disease and lower blood pressure, cholesterol, stress, inflammation, and anxiety through yoga and meditation for 20 years. “Any time you follow your breath, you’re meditating,” he says. It doesn’t take much time: Just 15 minutes a day, sitting comfortably. If you get distracted, just re-focus. 


Ask a pharmacist

Few may know it, but pharmacists will do a comprehensive medications review just for the asking. “Ask when is a good time to do that” though, says Dr. Nancy MacDonald, a pharmacist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. “Obviously a Saturday morning may not be the best time.” MacDonald advises that anyone who is on a lot of medications, frequently hospitalized, or elderly, or whose medications change frequently, should ask a pharmacist for a review. 


Be intense at the gym

If you’re pressed for workout time, check out high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which alternates short bursts of almost-maximum effort with less intense recovery periods. This form of exercise has been shown to improve athletic conditioning, metabolism, and fat burning, according to studies.

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

What It Means to Be An Abortion Clinic Escort

A Q&A with Ethan Schmitt, a clinic escort at Ann Arbor Health Center

Your Biggest Questions About Sunscreen, Answered by a Pro

From how often to apply to the ingredients that make it work, a local dermatologist tells all

Stressed Out? Try Goat Yoga

Highland Park’s Pingree Farms offers a quirky fitness class

The Art of Yoga

A local instructor on Crohn’s disease and her path to healing

An Hour With ... Carmen McIntyre

Chief Medical Officer, Michigan Department of Corrections
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Review: Testa Barra Wows with Contemporary Dishes
    The Macomb Township restaurant serves Italian fare that is on par with the surging Detroit food...
  2. Exploring Metro Detroit’s Tiki Trend
    Mutiny Bar and Lost River serve up island vacations with every drink
  3. Michigan-Made, Mother Nature-Approved Tools for Your Kitchen
    Ditch disposables and opt for reusable products
  4. A Deeper Look into the Racial and Ethnic Tensions Dividing Metro Detroit
    From the city to the suburbs, existing segregation could be hindering the region’s progress
  5. Every Day is Throwback Thursday at This Roseville Steakhouse
    Mr. Paul's Chophouse has remained consistently delicious for more than 50 years
  6. A Look at the Inexplicable Exclusion of Detroit Tigers’ Lou Whitaker from the Baseball Hall of Fame
    Writer Michael Betzhold investigates the Major League slip-up
  7. 3 Eateries that Focus on People, Profit, and the Planet
    These triple bottom line businesses are part of Detroit’s FoodLab organization
  8. Q&A: Nancy Barr, Curator of Photography at the Detroit Institute of Arts
    Plus, information about the DIA’s upcoming exhibit, Lost & Found
  9. This Vegan Catering Company Celebrates the ‘Natural Beauty of Food’
    Plus, tips on how to create your own photo-worthy grazing board
  10. Meet the Makers: Salt Textile Studios
    This textile maker wants her creations to be unique to ‘here’