(Dow Jones) More financial advisors are talking to clients about pounds as well as portfolios.

While some avoid the often touchy subjects of weight loss and exercise because they don't want to offend clients, a growing number of advisors are encouraging clients to take better care of themselves because of the impact health has on insurance rates and retirement planning. In many instances, clients are raising the subject.

"People's health is just as big a threat to their retirement as a low 401(k)balance," says Steve Vernon, a consultant at Mercer, who regularly talks to 401(k) plan participants about the importance of taking care of their health. "We really need to make every cent count, and part of that is minimizing the cost of medical expenses."

Vernon, who shed 25 pounds himself and now exercises regularly, says he brings up the topic by asking employees whether they have a friend or relative in a nursing facility. People can't avoid all illnesses, but those who take care of themselves typically are able to extend their lives and the period during which they live less expensively on their own, he says.

Michael J. Garner, a financial consultant for Charles Schwab, says he thinks it's important to discuss health as part of the financial-planning process because "very rarely have people thought about out-of-pocket health-care expenses."

The average couple in retirement will need about a quarter-million dollars just to cover medical costs, according to Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, a Washington nonprofit.

The subject is important to address before retirement because someone's health can affect the cost of life insurance and the ability to even get long-term care insurance, says financial advisor Eve Kaplan. She has clients trying to lose weight and improve their cholesterol levels to get better insurance rates.

"I think we're going to be talking more and more about this because the population is aging," she says. If you don't discuss it, "it can blow up a financial plan."


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