As a trusted financial advisor, you’ve most likely helped your clients financially protect themselves from the effects of an unforeseen disability. But have you also advised them on the ways they can prevent a disability from occurring in the first place?

In many cases, lifestyle choices can actually reduce your client’s chances of disability. From prioritizing diet and exercise to maintaining a positive outlook on life, there are a number of surprisingly simple things they can do to reduce their risk. While some of these items may seem simple and obvious, it’s clear that many Americans have yet to get the memo. Good advice — and a little push from a trusted source — may be just enough to help them make a very important difference in their lives and their futures.

In your next meeting with your clients, share these 10 important disability prevention tips.

  1. Quit smoking. It’s no secret that nicotine use has been linked to a variety of life-threatening illnesses, from cancer and heart disease to stroke. If your client is a smoker, ask them to quit. If they need help kicking the habit, refer them to The American Cancer Society for tools and resources.
  2. Get regular checkups. Clients should think of their doctor as an ally who helps keep them well — not just the person who treats them when they’re sick. Regular checkups and screenings are vital, especially if your clients are predisposed to certain medical conditions. They can learn which screenings and immunizations may be appropriate by asking their primary health care provider or visiting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Web site.
  3. Get regular cancer screenings. Early detection saves thousands of lives every month. Depending on family history and certain risk factors, screenings may be necessary beginning at different ages. Advise your clients to ask their doctor, or visit the American Cancer Society Web site for more information.
  4. Lose weight. A few extra pounds can cause big trouble, putting strain on the heart, raising blood pressure, and significantly increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, or diabetes. It’s best to eat more high-fiber, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables and fewer high-fat foods. For more dietary information, point clients to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.
  5. Eat chocolate. This may be one of the easiest tips for many individuals. According to a recent analysis of available data performed by the American Academy of Neurology, eating chocolate may lower your risk of having a stroke. While more research is needed, eating one piece a week seems to have protective benefits. Moderation is key.
  6. Exercise regularly. A healthy life requires periodic physical activity. To prevent heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and obesity, the American Heart Association recommends 30-60 minutes of exercise at least four times a week.
  7. Avoid excessive drinking. While drinking in moderation is usually fine, heavy drinking can lead to liver damage and other serious health risks. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can answer any alcohol questions.
  8. Become safety-minded. Disability-causing incidents can spring up when they’re least expected. Individuals should stay alert for possible dangers. Drive defensively. Wear seatbelts. At work or play, always use the recommended safety equipment. For more information, visit the National Safety Council.
  9. Watch your back. Back injuries and arthritis are the leading causes of disability – but many people can reduce the chances of injury by losing weight, doing gentle stretching exercises before a rigorous workout, and practicing sound weightlifting techniques. The Cleveland Clinic Health Information Center is an excellent source of information.
  10. Cultivate mental and emotional health, too. Good relationships and a positive mental attitude can really help. In fact, Columbia University Medical Center researchers recently found that happy or positive people have fewer heart attacks. So advise your clients to take time for relaxation and doing things that make them happy.

How to educate your clients
Want to show your clients how likely they are to suffer a disability — and how different lifestyle factors can really have an effect on their chances? Use the Personal Disability Quotient (PDQ) calculator, developed by the Council for Disability Awareness. For example, a person who smokes and is about 50 pounds overweight has a 67 percent higher risk of facing disability that a person of average height and weight.

Barry Lundquist is the interim president of the Council for Disability Awareness. He can be reached at barrylundquist@disabilitycouncil.org or 207-774-2634.