According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP), chronic diseases are conditions that last for at least a year and require continuous medical attention or limit daily life activities.
They are the top causes of death and disability in the country, with 60% of Americans having one chronic disease and 40% having two or more chronic diseases.
The most common major chronic diseases are cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic lung disease, chronic kidney disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
People with an underlying chronic disease must be extra cautious during the pandemic because they have a higher risk of developing severe illness if infected with Covid-19.
Managing Chronic Disease
If you have a chronic disease, the first step toward managing it is fully understanding your condition. Discuss openly with your doctor about your concerns and options. Ask questions if there is anything you are not clear about. Read up on your condition and verify the information with your doctor. Only if you are fully informed can you participate meaningfully in decisions about your health.
Agree with your doctor on a care plan that includes your goals and follow it. This includes monitoring and reporting your symptoms and taking your medication as prescribed. Obey all instructions regarding your diet and physical activity.
These days, many people who have a chronic disease opt to become proactive participants in managing their condition and this leads to better results. If you have a chronic illness, you must do so as well.
Many elderly people with chronic conditions decline confinement in a nursing home. No matter what your age is, it is possible to manage chronic diseases from home with the help of professionals.
It is important to work with your doctor even if you decide to manage your condition from home. Your doctor will determine if you need periodic visits from a nurse or other medical specialists. These will not replace your regular medical consultations, though.
If you have difficulty doing some daily tasks, you will benefit greatly from hiring a home health aide. This is also necessary during the pandemic when you must not be leaving home except for doctor’s appointments and hospital visits. Your aide can help you with home chores and will do your outside errands for you.
To manage your condition holistically, you must combine your mainstream medical care with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and a mindful lifestyle.
CAM refers to any treatment that is not part of mainstream medicine, such as meditation, massage therapy, chiropractic treatment, yoga, biofeedback, acupuncture, reiki, music therapy, and herbal supplements, among others. These are useful in reducing chronic pain and avoiding overuse of pain medication. They can ease side effects from mainstream medical procedures such as chemotherapy. They can also improve mental health and boost emotional wellbeing.
The government’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine (NCCIH) is a good place to start when doing your research about complementary health practices and products.
Make sure you consult your doctor first before starting on any CAM therapy or supplement to ensure that it is not harmful to your specific condition or contraindicated in your medications.
The holistic approach considers not just your body but also its interconnection with your mental state and emotions. It recognizes how your poor physical state can cause stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems, and vice versa. The holistic approach, therefore, means working on both the body and the mind.
You can lessen stress and its accompanying mental health issues by finding an alternative to activities that you enjoyed before but can no longer do. For instance, if you were actively engaged in sports before, you can choose a similar but less strenuous activity that your doctor will approve of. Exercise is still a priority for anyone with a chronic disease, but be mindful that you do not exceed your limitations.
You can also find different alternatives that you did not explore before. This may be the time to unearth your hidden talents or discover new passions.
Start a journal that you write in every day. Stream of consciousness writing releases stress as it taps into your subconscious and expresses your pent-up feelings. You do not need to be a writer to do this and there are no rules of spelling or grammar to follow. Just let your thoughts spill out into the page uncensored and unedited.
Stay connected with your loved ones and friends online since the pandemic prevents face-to-face interactions. It is important to keep those ties for your emotional and psychological health.
Live Healthy with a Chronic Disease
It can seem ironic to say that you can live healthy with a chronic disease, but this is exactly what you must do.
Living healthy means avoiding all the factors that caused and can worsen your condition. The top culprits are smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, excessive alcohol intake, poor nutrition, and lack of physical activity.
You can still make the most of your current condition and live the best life you can.